James Blake Channels Feist, Joni; Kurt Vile Lets His Hair Down

All of 22, Britain’s James Blake masterminded three sonically diverse EPs just in the past year and recently released a self-titled debut album. The crowd at Music Hall of Williamsburg on March 14 was well beyond eager.

“Hello, I feel really welcome ... First time here, first stop,” Blake said from his outpost at the keyboards while his two mates took their spots behind samplers and guitar, drum machines and percussion.

The scattered track “Unlock” opened, with a gentle, soulful vocal and keys building up. The crowd showed signs of impending rapture.

“The Wilhelm Scream” demonstrated that peculiar Blake brew of powerful minimalism: a drum tapped, an occasional sample, aching vocals.

The trio showed real craft in transforming electronic elements from a studio album to a live show. For “Klavierwerke,” Blake showcased his dub-step influences. Cymbals and snapping echoed vocals came with enough bass to rattle the walls.

For “I Never Learnt to Share,” Blake remained seated behind keys, hair slopping across baby face, while he sung over his own looped vocals. The double track “Lindisfarne I” and “Lindisfarne II” followed. It was a slow burner that layered his voice over sliding guitar and a tepid beat. It was reminiscent of a tweaked Bon Iver song, yet very much his own.

The evening’s highlight belonged to Blake’s rendition of Feist’s “Limit to Your Love.” The flawless recreation reflected his appreciation of R&B combined with electronic elements.

The encore saw Blake alone at the piano for Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” showcasing his classical training and his clear talent for shining. He’ll return in May for gigs at the Bowery Ballroom and Le Poisson Rouge.

Vile, Violators

Opening on March 24 for Dinosaur Jr.’s frontman, J. Mascis, Philadelphia’s Kurt Vile & the Violators faced a jammed Mercury Lounge. The quartet’s 45-minute set pumped out lo-fi throwback psychedelic indie music that was nostalgic and modern all at once.

From the initial dark jam, the players eventually made their way into “Hunchback,” a gritty tune that had Vile bent over his guitar behind a curtain of long flowing hair. He delivered the vocals with a nonchalant conviction before closing it out with feedback and fuzz.

“Jesus Fever,” off the band’s latest and very well- balanced album, “Smoke Ring for My Halo,” came with a twang, a trading of swift guitar solos and a jauntier pace.

Young Tom Petty

For “Ghost Town,” Vile shifted to acoustic guitar and shone like a young Tom Petty. A true slow burner, the spacey number built to a screeching culmination before ending with Vile playing the opening chords.

The set wrapped up with a Dylanesque “Heart Attack,” for which Vile slurred his delivery over finger-picked guitar. The band will be back on June 11 at the Bowery Ballroom.

Here’s a selection of New York-area shows in April. Please note that opening bands aren’t always listed. Shows marked (SO) are sold out, although online services such as Craigslist often have tickets:

April 1
The Strokes at Madison Square Garden (SO)
April 2
LCD Soundsystem at Madison Square Garden (SO)
April 3
Destroyer/The War on Drugs at Webster Hall
April 4
Jonny Corndawg and Friends at Brooklyn Bowl
April 5
Royal Bangs at Knitting Factory, Brooklyn
April 6
Explosions in the Sky/Low at Radio City Music Hall
April 7
Morning Teleportation at Mercury Lounge
April 8
The Black Angels/Suuns at Bowery Ballroom (SO)
April 9
Grouplove/Foster the People at Knitting Factory (SO)
April 10
Sebadoh/Richard Buckner at Bowery Ballroom
April 11
The Drums/Matthew Dear at Knitting Factory (SO)
April 12
Surf City/Darlings/Lingering Doubts/Little Racer at Glasslands
April 13
TV on the Radio/Light Asylum at Radio City Music Hall
April 14
Wye Oak/Caveman/Callers at Bowery Ballroom
April 15
O’Death/Grandchildren/Country Mice at Knitting Factory
April 16
Sharon Van Etten/Megafaun at Music Hall of Williamsburg
April 17
Grouper at Le Poisson Rouge
April 18
The Pipettes at The Rock Shop
April 19
PJ Harvey at Terminal 5 (SO)
April 20
DOM/Minks/Fergus and Geronimo/Total Slacker at Bowery Ballroom
April 21
Glass Ghost/Milagres/Husband & Wife at The Rock Shop
April 22
Hayes Carll/Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit at Bowery Ballroom
April 23
Hunx & His Punx/Shannon & The Clams/Grass Widow at Glasslands
April 24
Neil Young at Avery Fisher Hall
April 25
Neil Young at Avery Fisher Hall
Tame Impala/Yuck at Webster Hall
April 26
Emmylou Harris at Bowery Ballroom (SO)
April 27
Low at Bowery Ballroom
April 28
Lord Huron/The Wilderness of Manitoba at Mercury Lounge
April 29
Pinback at Highline Ballroom
April 30
Titus Andronicus/The Suzan/Dinowalrus at Music Hall of
Williamsburg

(Jaime Widder works in sales for Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on this story: Jaime Widder in New York at jwidder@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff in New York at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

Bloomberg reserves the right to edit or remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.