Words by Wes Foster.
Bloc Party’s first of three shows in the UK – two London dates and one late added Albert Hall show – mark their fifth album to date, ‘Hymns’, and the evolution of a constantly progressing band. Only two of the original line up remain for what is there first record in five years, owing perhaps mainly to lead singer Kele Okereke’s solo releases with ‘The Boxer’ in 2010 and ‘Trick’ in 2014. At the sold out show all eyes seemed to be on Kele, and it is no longer about a band but more of a retrospective for a band that everyone remembers. Luckily, unlike many gigs of the same nature, it still felt down to earth – there is no pomp before coming on stage, no waiting times to be acrimonious about.
There’s an almost workman-like approach to the show. Come on, play the songs, leave again. Perhaps this is because they are no longer a heavily gigging band and as good as the other musicians are, they seem to drift into the background. Even the lighting seems to echo this sentiment, as linear beams frame Kele whilst at times slicing right through other band members, who through the gig don’t say anything. Kele, on the other hand, seems to try to get the audience going, to his credit, throwing some chat to the audience every so often and dropping ‘Manchester’ once or twice too often, making it plastic feeling banter that has been scripted ready for most gigs.
Bloc Party are still a solid live band, though perhaps just lacking the same connection to their audience that they once possessed. This is probably most obvious when they play ‘Helicopter’ or ‘Banquet’, fan favourites and tracks that most think of when we hear the name Bloc Party. To the band themselves, these may just feels like remnants of a distant past, especially after half of the band have left since then. The gig seems most at home with 2008’s ‘Mercury’, a track that seems to straddle the two battling forms of Bloc Party fairly well, the guitar heavy indie favourites and the dancier, more modern approach to track writing that they have since taken to. This sense of being at odds with their past is pretty apparent, despite a fairly hefty back catalogue of tracks, 75 minutes is a little underwhelming. The gig felt neither long enough, nor short enough, as a fair few tracks missed out on a connection with the audience and a few left out that you would have expected to see/hear.
Bloc Party played The Albert Hall on Wednesday 8th February 2017.