Wednesday 28 October 2009

Bloc Party, Rock City

When we last caught Grammatics supporting Red Light Company we were quite enamoured with their slightly oddball sound. Tonight though they seem to play very few of the tracks that they played that night, either that or they’ve heavily rearranged them. If it’s all new material they play then I’m not terribly impressed because the result is actually rather dull. It appears it’s not only me who quickly gets bored with them, as the increasing level of chattering voices and the queues at the bars show a lot of the audience has found something better to do.

Even their Swedish connection, the lovely Emilia, again with her black stocking clad thighs wrapped around her cello, doesn’t intrigue me tonight and her cello, so prominent before, seems slightly irrelevant tonight.

Despite the lack of enthusiasm from the crowd, the assembled throng do occasionally take a break from updating Facebook to applaud at the end of each song and even participate in a bit of a brief hand clap at one point.

Mind you I wouldn’t wish the task of opening for Bloc Party on anyone. Warming up is one thing a Bloc Party crowd certainly don’t need, perhaps Grammatics were given the brief to calm everyone down.

Once they’ve departed the crowd get down to their own warm ups, pogoing to the background music whilst lobbing in the odd random chant of ‘Bloc Party’ for good measure. Then eventually to the accompaniment of a communal shriek, and a salvo of badly aimed glow sticks, the band arrive. Strobe lights drench the stage and we’re off, running and jumping to ‘One Month Off’.

When Bloc Party originally announced their tour dates to promote last year's 'Intimacy' album I was appalled at their decision to play two nights a piece in just three cities outside London during January; namely Glasgow, Manchester, Wolverhampton. Were they now too big to remember their fan base? Thankfully not, the band has toured tirelessly for the last few years and are now back in the UK where they are in the middle of a sizeable UK tour throughout October, known as Bloctober. This tour visits, well, just about everywhere. I apologise. True professionals. Albeit probably knackered ones.

Kele Okereke, shockingly sawn now of his dreadlocks, appears as relaxed and chatty with the fanatical crowd as ever. Seemingly still enjoying being up there before his public, giving no fuel to the rumours, mainly started by the band themselves, that this mega tour may be their last. If not for good, at least for some time. So potentially this is could be a farewell tour.

Next up the classic ‘Like Eating Glass’ before they descend into a run of four tracks off their most recent album. Which is fine if that album rocks your boat, as it clearly does for all those down the front. Personally I find it a rather messy and unnecessarily noisy record where they are perhaps trying too hard to be different but then I’m just old. Tonight a lot of the ‘Intimacy’ stuff just blends into a bit of an amorphous but hugely popular mass.

It’s already become a pretty chaotic and sweat filled night down on the floor, so after the jarring seizures of ‘Mercury’ and the slightly more tempered ‘Talons’, Kele slows things down to give everyone a rest with the rather beautiful ‘Signs’.

At one point the stage is besieged with a barrage of ‘Asda products’, I think they were crisps. I’ve no idea why. I heard someone once lobbed some tulips on stage to get that particular old favourite played but crisps?

The complex electronics of ‘Trojan Horse’ restores the chaos and continues the mythology theme. A couple of cuts from 'A Weekend in the City' follow, namely the rockier numbers ‘Hunting For Witches’ and ‘Song For Clay (Disappear Here)’. Excellent numbers both of them.

Bloc Party are always an engaging band to watch. Russell, on guitar, keeps his head down throughout putting in his usual workmanlike performance whilst Gordon alternates between his bass guitar and his synthesizer for the newer stuff. Oh and the occasional glockenspiel. Then there’s the near naked Matt Tong putting in a shift above and beyond the call of duty on drums.

Despite the electronic shift in style, the band remain at their best when playing their guitar driven stuff and old favourite ‘Banquet’ raises the tempo ever higher, if that’s possible, and the staircase we are stood on develops an unsettling sideways movement.

The highlight though is probably ‘Kreuzberg’, a rarity live according to Kele, although reworked a little tonight, it still sounds awesome and suggests that perhaps more should have been played from ‘A Weekend In The City’, their much maligned second album.

Instead we get ‘Luno’ from ‘Silent Alarm’ which is good but wouldn’t have been top of my choices. One thing you get with Bloc Party is variety because they appear to rip up their set list after every show and start a new one. So if you see them tomorrow 50% of the set would be different and they have the back catalogue to get away with this.

Their newest release ‘One More Chance’ sounds good tonight as does an old favourite ‘This Modern Love’ and the closing ‘The Prayer’.

They return with Kele announcing that we are only half way through the night and asks whether the crowd are up for the second half. They assure him they are. Golden oldie ‘So Here We Are’ is followed by the oddly popular Chemical Brothers-esk (God of) war anthem ‘Ares’. A song which is chaos on stage and chaos on the floor.

Their impromptu November 2007 bit of electro-pop, the single ‘Flux’ follows before naturally ‘Helicopter’ tops things off.

Performance and energy wise the band again don’t disappoint. It’s clear they still has the passion to perform for their fans and Kele announces ‘see you next time’. So perhaps not farewell after all.

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