Review: Bloc Party At Village Underground

 

It’s been a long time since we last saw Kele Okereke lead Bloc Party out onto a stage. There was an air of excited uncertainty in the crowd as the clock ticked closer to their arrival. However, [PIAS] Nites have a track record of putting on quality nights, and with a crowd of hardcore Bloc Party fans, the stage was set for a rousing return for the group.

After stepping up to the microphone with a quiet ‘Good evening London’, the new look four piece launched into ‘The Good News’. With its immediately likeable bluesy guitar and lyrics drawn straight from the Deep South this felt like a strong start. 

Kele made it clear that this was an exciting opportunity for them to play new material, and however much the crowd wanted to hear some of the classics, he didn’t seem in the mood to compromise. ‘Only He Can Heal Me’ is Bloc Party stripped back to its core. Louise’s drums were reminiscent of some of their early material and felt like a great base upon which to build a classic. Strangely, it didn’t build; on the contrary it seemed to stand still, leaving the crowd a little underwhelmed. It was at this point that Kele did launch into some old material as ‘Mercury’ and ‘Song For Clay’ sandwiched new tune ‘Virtue’. By this point they had the crowd fully on board and, not wanting to stop the momentum, they seamlessly brought in Silent Alarm classic ‘Banquet’. This was the slick, festival friendly Bloc Party we know and love at their best, setting the scene for a second half almost exclusively sampling new material.  

Louise Bartle looked tight on the drums throughout. She’s got the same fresh-faced enthusiastic vibes that original drummer Matt Tong had way back in 2005 with their debut release Silent Alarm. I mean, she even wore the kind of geeky nu-rave tie-dye t-shirt that he used to rock back in the day.
Justin Harris, formerly of Menomena, looked sound if unspectacular on bass. It wasn’t as though he was playing in the shadow of Gordon Moakes, but there was a feeling he hadn’t quite made the role his own yet. To be fair to him, he’s been in the band less than a year and will no doubt stamp his authority on the position in due course. 

Over the course of their first 4 albums, Bloc Party became synonymous with creative versatility as they swept through genres from indie-electro, through to synth-pop with some heavier rock in between. As a songwriter, we saw Kele swing from being bold, brash, and even political at times, to the soft, delicate introvert we hear in songs such as ‘So Here We Are’ or ‘Waiting For The 7.18’. 

It may sound obvious but this show was never going to be a nostalgic crowd pleaser. However much most people wanted nostalgia, this was an opportunity to test the waters for Kele and co. before Hymns’ big release on Friday (29th). This wasn’t Bloc Party at their best, but as is often the case when a reformed band releases new material, it can be slow to get going. However slow, Hymns should (and no doubt will), get the recognition and respect it deserves as a work of art.