On Monday night, the Assume Form Tour took over New York City’s Terminal 5, with headliner James Blake swiftly cutting through a blanket of silence, illuminated in front of three stage platforms. To the left was bass, front-and-center were drums, and atop the right level, Blake took a seat behind two keyboards. The trio of musicians unleashed “Assume Form,” the title track from the English star’s latest LP, amid much fanfare. The sold-out mass belted, “I will assume form, I’ll leave the ether/ I will assume form, I’ll be out of my head this time.”
A Travis Scott voice-over catapulted the vibe for the lead’s Metro Boomin-assisted banger “Mile High,” and Blake’s bass player impressively pivoted to handle electronic production too. The La Flame collaboration was released a couple of weeks ago and already boasts the support of millions across streaming service platforms. In need of a breath, Blake raised his arm to cue onlookers’ attention. Soon he affirmed, “It’s great to be here for a second night. To sell this place out is remarkable.”
With an enamored glance at Terminal 5’s two-tier balcony area, Blake’s a cappella high notes sent concertgoers beyond the original wax of “I’ll Come Too,” while the first verse of the well-known follow-up song, “Barefoot in the Park,” punctuated the singer’s talent as world-class to the city. Music lovers of all ethnicities joined him, singing, “Ya tengo to’ lo que quiero/ Ya no puedo pedir má’/ Cuando te tengo a mi la’o/ Lo pasa’o se queda atrá’!” Even his percussionist couldn’t fight the urge to shimmy.
Blake’s cover of Feist’s “Limit to Your Love” included brilliantly played keys and red lighting to accentuate a seductive break into his track “Love Me in Whatever Way.” Loops of hums instantaneously intertwined with a soundscape of beach waves, inspiring couples to inch closer together. Finally, Blake took center stage, providing the first unobstructed view of his all-black ensemble. He beamed a smile in time for the women on the concert gate’s raving reaction.
Donning a duster jacket, button-down shirt, high-cut pants and leather footwear, Blake tugged at his waist, gesturing the melody of “Are You in Love?” As strings plucked and fingers snapped, the topliner maintained tempo but kept his arms cuffed shyly behind his back. This visible vulnerability was refreshing through his retro notes on “Can’t Believe the Way We Flow” and “Loathe to Roam.”
An extended introduction into a lyrical blessing from Andre 3000 on the poetic “Where’s the Catch” was a clear fan favorite. One woman tossed her blouse near the stage, as Blake gripped his mic and burst, “And everything’s ghost, everything’s ghost now/ Every, everything’s rose now.” His mass seized the moment and sang back, mustering all their might, but became startled by a sudden blackout in the concert.
Fans began to scramble, and Blake’s grounds looked a bit awkward before a neon cascade thrust his attendees into a festival-like version of “Voyeur.” The return of the idol’s performing strobes made for the evening’s most upbeat highlight. It fittingly led into the musician’s largest single with no features, “Retrograde.” “I’ll wait/ So show me why you’re strong/ Ignore everybody else/ We’re alone now,” inspiring a clap so loud, Blake joined in himself.
“I have a couple of people to thank, and one is Khushi who opened tonight. He writes really beautiful songs! Also, I want to thank the two musicians onstage with me. I’ve known them since I was 11 years old. So it is such an honor to get to play with them every night,” Blake professed.
To cap his lengthy set, the serenader took the stage alone to perform his final record, “The Wilhelm Scream” — a cover of his father, James Litherland’s, “Where to Turn.” Many loyalists on the balcony sat on the floor or squeezed against the railing to get a better view of his emotional goodbye.
Even so, the headliner’s exit wave to his NYC supporters was false. The cheers of James Blake’s devotees brought him back out for a gentle encore of “Don’t Miss It” and “Lullaby for My Insomniac.” The gracious showcase of stripped-down musicianship was concluded with a bow and an affectionate kiss toward his crowd.
Before Blake took the stage, at precisely 8 p.m. ET, London musician Khushi strutted out from left wing to heavy percussion. Under scarlet lighting, Blake’s opening act riffed an unreleased lullaby with an enthusiasm that made attendees transition away from lines at the bar toward the main stage. In acknowledgment of this positive first impression, the on-the-rise UK artist introduced himself.
“Hi, my name is Khushi. Thanks for having me! This is my first time in New York,” the crooner gushed about the second night of the tour’s Manhattan stop. His charming accent chimed above the piano keys to his latest earworm, “Freedom Falls.” A few followers sang the new record back at Khushi until he began previews of his soon-to-release bops.
A soulful jam the soloist introduced as “For Me” made GA dance below his piano, and an aria named “Call Out” featured an ethereal outro. To the surprise of many, Khushi reached for a guitar and rocked out, basking in an electric melody. This passionate instrumentation proved him as a cross-genre artist.
Alongside his drummer, Josh, the opener paused in admiration. “Thanks for being such an attentive audience. It makes it special for us. We really appreciate this,” he said. And as more showgoers poured in, Khushi closed his set with an earnest forthcoming ballad.