Bloc Party return after a three year absence and, despite a few dodgy moments, prove they’ve still got it, writes Piers Barber.
Three years and several rumours of a split since their last set of live shows, Bloc Party launch into their latest tour this month intent on proving why they remain, almost a decade since their first release, the band most capable of performing the brand of indie rock they have spent their career pioneering.
Tonight in Glasgow, they throw themselves into a typically energetic show which often threatens to become overly noisy and in essence rather empty. Ultimately, however, they display enough melody and musicianship to remind everyone of their undoubted talent and importance.
Singer Kele Okereke – brilliantly unpretentious in his Public Enemy t-shirt and Adidas shorts – has always been an excellent indie rock frontman, totally confident in his role and comfortable with the limits of his talents.
It is unfortunate, then, that his presence far outdoes that of the rest of his band. An inch or two has gone from guitarist Russell Lissack’s silly angular fringe, but he remains a shy if very talented guitarist – one of those annoying players who insist on playing excellent solos whilst looking slightly bored and awkward. Bassist Gordon Moakes now comes complete with new hipster moustache, whilst Matt Tong on drums – dressed, as if to reiterate the brawn over brain emphasis, in cut off jeans and little else – completes the slightly clichéd looking line-up.
It should be remembered, though, that these musicians were at the cutting edge of music and style when they first announced their arrival with cult favourite album Silent Alarm in 2005. Their work, all angular guitars and wounded falsetto vocals, has been crucial in defining the style that has since gone on to influence a wide range of successful artists like Klaxons, Two Door Cinema Club and Metronomy.
The band have always been a formidable live entity, especially in a festival setting, and tonight, when they get it right, it continues to work brilliantly. The band’s dexterity is typified half way through tonight’s show, when a cutting from Kele’s solo hit ‘Tenderoni’ introduces a pounding ‘Song For Clay (Disappear Here)’, which then blends effortlessly into fan favourite ‘Banquet’. Elsewhere, ‘This Modern Love’, ‘Sunday’ and the pretty new ‘The Healing’ prove how great the band can sound when they pay close attention to their melodies, whilst Kele’s ‘We Found Love’ ode to Rihanna at the beginning of ‘Flux’ is a cute little crowd pleaser.
With Tong’s wall of enthusiastic drumming often overshadowing Lissack’s largely clever guitar work, fans are occasionally left wondering what it was that used to set this band apart from their numerous clones.
Elsewhere, the music is slightly over-aggressive, basic and adheres to a disappointingly simple objective: to play fast paced indie rock in order to get the chilly Glaswegian crowd a bit angry. The results are hit and miss. The band get it bang on with the thrilling, screeching ‘Ares’ but rather wrong with the likes of ‘We Are Not Good People’ and ‘Coliseum’, which are pretty frustrating and particularly unsubtle attempts to rile up some teenagers. With Tong’s wall of enthusiastic drumming often overshadowing Lissack’s largely clever guitar work, fans are occasionally left wondering what it was that used to set this band apart from their numerous clones.
Kele, who at one point tries out the empty “Where all the girls at? Where all the boys at?” routine, is occasionally guilty of rather over-egging the band’s laddish appeal. The crowd respond accordingly, and the guitar notes in ‘Flux’ are sung along to football chant-style, whilst those odious “Here we fucking go” shouts slightly undermine those enticing opening notes to the brilliant ‘Helicopter’, which closes tonight’s gig.
Bloc Party’s attempt to make a big impact with their return is often slightly over-boisterous, and such beery attitudes come close to damaging the show. Ultimately, though, the quality of some of the music that defined their genre shines through. They remain a major player.
Follow Piers on Twitter @piersbarber18