Sunday, November 24, 2013

James Blackshaw Acoustic Set @ Tate Britain

Last night, I had the fantastic opportunity to watch James Blackshaw perform an acoustic set at Tate Britain's House-Warming Party yesterday and - it was incredible. If you haven't heard James' music before, I highly recommend that you do: he's a twelve-string guitarist, pianist, and composer from Hastings with an impressive discography and tour schedule to boot. I also happen to know his dad and his dad's wife quite well (she was my first boss at Penguin!), which is lucky since they saved me a spot on the floor in the very crowded room last night, so I had a terrific front row seat.

I've been wanting to see James perform since purchasing his album, Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death, last year. Not only was I finally able to do so, but I was also in possibly the most amazing venue ever: the Tate, lit up in bright lights, with paintings you only see in books displayed on walls, is probably the coolest place you could have a late-night show (or a series of shows, in the case of last evening).

I was super late getting across to Pimlico from St. Paul's (where I'd just met John for a quick dinner at Yo! Sushi)  and ended up jumping out of a cab and racing into the back entrance of the Tate like a madwoman with my (faux) fur hat over my eyes, getting all sweaty and lost in the labyrinth of the museum. I think I must have elbowed and trampled at least 20 people when I arrived. Oops. When I stepped into the room, it was nearly full, and die-hard fans had already staked their claim on floorspace: sitting, sprawling, and reclining on bags. It was like a festival-meets-art-gallery atmosphere, which made for a terrific one. Curious passer-bys who had been unable to get in before the doors closed stood at the roped-off side entrances, enthralled by James' performance. I sneaked a glance at Joe once or twice during the performance and saw he had his "proud-dad" face on. Aww.

I love James' music because it's instantly evocative, though I can't place my finger on exactly what or why. Not to mention, his self-taught (!) fingerpicking skills are incredible to watch live. After his set, and after the line of super-fans had died down, I had the opportunity to meet James and tell him what a fan I was (in my usual, awkward, star-struck manner).

Before we left, I took some quick snaps of the museum in late-night party mode:

The place was buzzing. Our evening was only slightly spoiled by two a**holes who randomly scampered up to the front row after James' first piece, then proceeded to talk loudly (yes, loudly) and animatedly into a cell phone. When a fellow concert-goer shushed the guy (it was a guy-girl couple), he shot her a glare and ignored her. I could tell that Joe, who was sitting next to me, was getting antsy. So was I. I couldn't imagine a ruder, more obnoxious thing to do during someone's performance - especially if you've placed yourself squarely in front mid-way into the show (who does that anyway?). Finally, Joe told them to quiet down and the guy turned around in rage, telling us to mind our own business. Of course, I (with my fiery temper) told him to STFU and after a few more words were exchanged, he and his lank-haired girlfriend decided to literally scoot their butts towards the nearest exit and leave. Pathetic.

In happier news, I found the magnificent staircase that had just been remodelled (and was part of the purpose of having a "house-warming" party in the first place:

Isn't it beautiful? Imagine what it looks like during the day with the sun (or grey clouds) streaming in. I could have stared up forever, except for the fact that I was blocking the staircase and refusing all the cool people access to the cloakroom. My bad.

Here's one of my favorite songs from James' latest album:


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