Fri 21 Nov – Bloc Party, Van She
After scoring tickets to the gig from a terribly generous friend, I was admittedly slightly apprehensive. I had wanted to see Bloc Party live for a long time, but I was worried that with the release of A Weekend In The City, and the recently released Intimacy, they would neglect their rollickingly good tunes from one of my favourite albums of all time, Silent Alarm.
Kele in a recent interview described Bloc Party's albums as each being one of "three childen [that] want to you to like them all as much as each other". If that is the case, I can't help but think that Intimacy is like the ugly newborn that many Bloc Party fans would gladly put up for adoption. Unfortunately it's illegal to put someone else's children up for adoption. Damn extended metaphors, I get carried away. Nevertheless, I was interested to see if the songs were more palatable live.
So, taking the trip down to rickety old Festival Hall, in the rain and wind, I set myself up to be a little disappointed. I was a little right, and a little wrong.
Australian electro-pop outfit Van She opened the night, and while I commend them on getting a spot supporting one of the major indie acts around today, their set was uninspiring and flat. A few songs in their set went down well, like single Changes, but generally the band seemed content to play their instruments in one place and not do a lot else. They gave very little banter between songs, though I thought drummer Tomek Archer was very good, and the synthesisers added a bit to their music, reminiscent a little of M83's recent release Saturdays = Youth.
After Van She's set, the attendence swelled dramatically, waiting for the headliner to come out. As the crowd soon spotted, Kele, Russell, Gordon and Matt came up the stage from the side, as my excitement welled and my faithful gigmate jumped around like an overexcited swan, and the show kicked off with One Month Off, rather than the (what I was told was terrible) rendition of Mercury the previous night, which was surprisingly not present this night.
Next was Hunting For Witches, as Kele, dressed in denim shorts, danced a little around the stage, generally reminiscent of a schoolboy if not for his chants for a 'six pack of beer'. The crowd seemed happy so far, but were still not into the swing of it, and while the following Waiting For The 7:18 was well performed, with the end cries of 'Let's drive to Brighton on the weekend' faithfully performed by both Kele and several thousand members of the crowd, Bloc Party were still working themselves into stride.
Song For Clay (Disappear Here) followed, which brought the crowd back to hyperactivity, as the decevingly slow intro kicked into the steamrolling main riff. The band played several more tracks from Intimacy, interspersed with a great Banquet rendition which kicked the crowd up a few notches, but I couldn't help thinking that the tracks from Intimacy lacked the same energy and intensity as those from the older two albums.
Pleasingly, the band threw in So Here We Are, a song which was not present the night before, and chased it down with crowd pleaser The Prayer. As Kele and the band settled into Sunday, you couldn't help but appreciate the little short-wearing frontman, and his soft 'I'll love you in the morning's.
After leaving the stage shortly, the band came back a little bemused at the encore chants of 'BLOC PARTY! BLOC PARTY!', with Kele declaring this part of the night to be their 'second half of the set'. He playfully added, 'It's good! You'll like it!'.
Like it was an understatement. Bloc Party came back with a vengence, playing Like Eating Glass, Helicopter, and Flux, all among the best tracks of the night. Flux in particular was a highlight, with the strobing green laser lights and pounding dance beats turning the rickity wooden hall into a dancefest with the crowd pulsing in time with the song.
Leaving the stage once more, Bloc Party returned after a now appropriate bout of crowd screaming their name and clapping harder and faster. Bloc Party ended with personal favourite, This Modern Love, with the rises and falls of its twinkling guitars mimicked by the crowd at the band's feet.
All things considered, I was pleasantly surprised with Bloc Party's setlist, containing a good deal off of the excellent Silent Alarm, and maybe a little too much for my liking, a decent enough showcase of Intimacy. The sound quality was great from where I was sitting, with the band's instruments each given room to breathe, however the band's performance left a little to be desired, with Kele missing lyrics here and there and the band being out of time at several points in the set. The minimal amount of banter from Kele and his compatriots could be improved on, however Kele was as charming as ever, even at one point, urging Festival Hall security let a guy who was dancing on the roof of the bar to stay and watch their show.
Even so, even despite the lack of songs I would have liked to have heard (Blue Light, Positive Tension, Luno, I'm looking at you), Bloc Party put on a decent show. Not one that is essential to see, but one that will entertain nonetheless.
Note: I've probably messed something up here, if I've made some sort of mistake (excluding me saying that I don't think Intimacy is very good), feel free to point it out (: