Bloc Party
Live @ Carling Bristol Academy, October 25, 2005
Review & Photography: Steve Bateman

It seems only natural for music fans these days, to be sceptical of any praise that's thrust upon a new band by the NME - because as the past has proven, such hype can often misfire and be detrimental to a band's career in the long-term.

With Bloc Party however, the music weekly hit its target spot on!

Having received their first major exposure, after handing a demo to Steve Lamacq during a Franz Ferdinand show - the band went on to release 2 limited edition singles on Trash Aesthetics and Moshi Moshi, before signing to Wichita, and delivering their Mercury-Nominated debut album, Silent Alarm, in February 2005.

Described in their official biography as, "An autonomous unit of un-extraordinary kids, reared on pop culture between the years of 1976 and the present day," Bloc Party are, Kele Okereke (vocals / guitar), Gordon Moakes (backing vocals / bass), Russell Lissack (guitar), and Matt Tong (drums).

Much has also been made of the London foursome's bookish and reserved demeanour - but what cannot be denied, is that Bloc Party's fresh, gritty and original art-rock, is one of the most exciting things to happen to British music in a very long time! Perhaps more importantly, now that the band are free from their 'current indie-darlings' chains, they have become one of this year's biggest success stories!

Unsurprisingly, tonight's show is sold out, and as the band walk across the dark stage to the sound of mournful strings, chants of "Bloc Party, Bloc Party," fade into the unforgettable opening notes, of the beautiful and dreamy, So Here We Are.

A claustrophobic Positive Tension, is then ushered in by Gordon's rumbling bass, and the somewhat staccato verses (along with Kele's robotic dance moves), are pierced by his pulsating promise of, "Something glorious is about to happen" - which, with an entire set nearly left, unquestionably will.

By design, the stage lights rarely allow us to see the band fully, although Kele, Gordon, Russell and Matt, do look very iconic - particularly Russell, who has indie's most fashionable haircut, 'The Bloc Head.' The large LED screen behind, also furnishes us with an array of colourful patterns and shapes, that untiringly alter to suit Bloc Party's sprawling soundscapes.

"This is a song about sex," has become the now familiar introduction from Kele, for the indie dancefloor filler that is, Banquet. With its quickfire groove, and hypnotic concoction of 'duelling guitars battling it out over an urgent drumbeat,' it remains one of the band's finest moments to date - and hearing the fans howl along with Kele to, "Cos I'm on fire…" is a real treat!

A gentle Blue Light, is closely followed by the steely dance swagger of She's Hearing Voices, which enables Kele to utilise the full-range of his versatile voice - one of the band's many distinctive qualities, that also accentuates their Britishness. From his subdued and soulful vocals, "She's hearing voices call her, she's hearing voices warn her, she just can't sleep in her bed." To his prickly / venomous wailing of, "She got a red pill blue pill, red pill blue pill, red pill blue pill, red pill blue pill - milk of amnesia," which precedes the song's climactic, screeching guitar rock-out.

In early interviews, Matt repeatedly said that he felt "the best bands, are the ones who are made up of individuals, but who work together really well." Giving his argument further credence, is the fact that Bloc Party's music itself, has been labelled as, "Stylistically Uncategorisable" - likely due to all four members' eclectic tastes. Some of which include, Talking Heads, Kate Bush, Björk, Kraftwerk, David Bowie, Dizzee Rascal, Joy Division, Mogwai, Sonic Youth, Suede, Radiohead, The Smashing Pumpkins, New Order, The Smiths, Prince, Black Sabbath and Fleetwood Mac, amongst many others.

But for me, early '80s New Wave and '90s Shoegazing, certainly seem to be two major influences, due to the overall cohesiveness of the band's dynamic / angular sound, which is awash with guitar-laden effects.

Watching Bloc Party play live, also allows you to fully relish the band's concerted musicianship and taut rhythms - from the enticing intros, to Kele's and Russell's shattering guitar riffs, to Gordon's edgy bass and Matt's inventive drumming patterns. They all seem to greatly enjoy what they do as well, with Kele putting his arm around Russell as they both laugh, and Gordon standing as close to the edge of the stage as he possibly can, throwing shapes and gazing straight out into the audience.

In reference to the militaristic The Marshals Are Dead, Kele remarks, "This is an old song, but an old song that's still a goodie we feel." After Luno, the melodic This Modern Love, is introduced as "a song that will bring us all together," and its final words of, "Do you wanna come over and kill some time? Throw your arms around me," are both touching and charming, and our fervent response causes Kele to gleefully smile.

Like Eating Glass, is a perfect indication of what the band's faster songs are all about, as it's raucous, dark and full of punk bravado. Kele then explains that Little Thoughts, "is a song about heartbreak," and its closing feedback, cleverly segues into the explosive fan-favourite, Helicopter. Featuring the key line, "Are you hoping for a miracle?" and with Kele's and Russell's guitars shredding away, the mosh pit turns into a hive of activity!

After more chants of, "Bloc Party, Bloc Party," tonight's encore begins with one of the band's newest songs, and their most recent single, Two More Years (which was once again produced by Paul Epworth). On the surface, it sounds a lot more commercial and radio-friendly than their older material, and it will be interesting to see if they maintain this direction in the future. The track itself, is injected with atmospheric keyboards that nod towards the '80s, and after observing some female fans swaying at the front, Kele jokes, "Dancing girls always bring a smile to my face!"

Although the songs' lyrics at times, can seem a little ambiguous, themes such as dissatisfaction, relationships, consumption, angst and politics, are all evident on closer inspection - with the latter being found in the political diatribe, Price Of Gasoline. Then, with its soft tones and the romantic admission, "When I caught you there, crying in the night, wearing my jacket, wearing that smile, I knew that I'd found you" - Tulips' vulnerability comes as a welcomed breather, in a predominantly energised set.

Finally, Kele announces, "Alas, we've come to the end, but we have one more jam for you and if you know the words, sing along. Thanks for coming out and we'll see you next year." As has become tradition with Bloc Party gigs, The Pioneers is the band's closing song, and the defiant refrain of, "We will not be the last" - along with the crowd's irrepressible cheers - is left ringing throughout Carling Bristol Academy.

A sensational show, which has only added to my love and admiration of a truly great band!

This tour has essentially been a farewell to promoting Silent Alarm, and with the current "renaissance of the electro sound, and its immersion into contemporary guitar band's music." Kele, Gordon, Russell and Matt, have undoubtedly cemented their status, as one of Britain's most unique, intriguing and forward-thinking acts - and all I can say, is that I hope there's a lot more to come!

God Bless Bloc Party.

Bristol Set List

So Here We Are
Positive Tension
Blue Light
She's Hearing Voices
The Marshals Are Dead
This Modern Love
Like Eating Glass
Little Thoughts
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Two More Years
Price Of Gasoline
The Pioneers

A very special thanks to Carl @ Coalition, for all of his time and help, and to Bloc Party + their management / security.


Eat Glass about this review on our moaning boards here (but be warned, Kele got there first!)