Everything James Blake does is a little on the nose.
The electro-R&B crooner and hip-hop producer is conspicuously British—bookish, sleepless and, on the cover of his two albums, looks as if he's dressed for a downpour. His music sounds like it's always teetering on the edge of falling in love.
In that sense, his show at the humid Roseland Theater on March 26 was completely in form. A few songs in, Blake meekly walked to the mic with his hands at his sides, wearing glinting black leather shoes, a long black trench coat, cuffed black pants and black socks short enough to reveal two pale slivers of legs. He looked like Christopher Robin, if Christopher Robin were a character in The Matrix.
Accompanied by a synth arpeggio that sounded like something plinked by a child, Blake started with "Are You in Love?," the sugary ballad at the core of his new album, Assume Form. "Are you in love?/Do your best impression for me/I try my hardest for you," he sang in his easy falsetto.
Blake spoke hardly at all throughout the night, save for an occasional "thank you ever so much," which the audience softly repeated in exaggerated English accents. Weeks after he had to reschedule his Portland show because of a lost voice, Blake was on an absolute tear: "This has been a great fucking gig for me," he said toward the end.
His set hit all the pleasure centers of the audience with unhinged, gorgeous vocal runs. The sour, heavy apex of his 2013 hit "Life Round Here" was the most visceral thrill of the evening, but the sweetest moment of the night came at the end, when his band vacated the stage and Blake sang a gutting piano cover of Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You." There was clearly a freedom in singing someone else's tune, and Blake brought out melodies in the classic that confirmed without a doubt the virtuosic ability that's allowed him to become one of the most adored Eeyores of the pop world.