Bloc Party

After a four-year absence, the four Bloc Party members return to Birmingham to tour their fourth album, Four. Support comes from youthful looking 5-piece, Theme Park. They seem to be a band of incongruence; four out of the five are playing guitar, they look like a conglomeration of different gangs from a school playground, and yet they produce a stream of catchy, bouncy, easy-listening tunes that would be more becoming from a Prince album.

Theme Park
Theme ParkTheme Park
Theme Park

After the departure of Theme Park, the floor of the Academy really starts to bristle with anticipation, as fans edge closer and pack to the front. Males outnumber females in the crowd and there is a definite age gap between the floor and the balcony. Then starts the chanting: “Bloc Party, Bloc Party,” which is soon hushed by lasers beaming out into the audience in four successive colours, accompanied by a booming wall of sound, reminiscent of the machines from War of the Worlds as they awake from a lengthy hibernation.

Bloc Party

The band walk on stage: Matt wearing nothing but denim shorts, Russell in a bright yellow t-shirt, Gordon in his trademark black, whilst Kele looks as though he has just arrived from lounging around on a sofa all day, dressed in a Public Enemy t-shirt and Adidas shorts. They burst into a fast-paced and somewhat monotonous version of recent single Octopus; the result being much dancing, but little singing along from the crowd. Indeed, throughout the evening, the more technically challenging songs from Four are played at increased speed, ending up with breathless and curt vocals from Kele.

Bloc Party

The new songs are interspersed with older ones, much to the appreciation of the crowd. There are wild reactions to Hunting For Witches, Positive Tension and Banquet, as the riffs pulse through the body of fans. The Prayer elicits a similar response. However, it is not only these old favourites that give the evening the feel of a homecoming to the fans, but also the ease with which Kele interacts with the audience as he incredulously fends off numerous requests to remove items of clothing. All are in good spirits as the band takes a short break, returning with what Kele calls his favourite from the new record, Real Talk, to kick off the second half of the set.

Bloc Party

The band seems more relaxed as the evening wears on. Gordon swaps his bass for a keyboard and Kele is able to free his hands and take greater command of the audience, with hypnotic spiralling lights and arms outstretched like some sort of preacher, as they launch into One More Chance. Flux and Helicopter create the biggest effect on the audience; crowdsurfers face the glare of a spotlight before being dragged down, whilst Kele insists that “it’s okay to be naughty once in a while, but ONLY once in a while.” Credit must be given to the band’s lighting engineers for the flood of blood-red as the crowd scream “East London is a vampire,” during Song For Clay (Disappear Here), as well as the strobe effect for the stop-start riff of Helicopter, which ends the main set.

Bloc PartyBloc Party
Bloc PartyBloc Party

Following chants of “We want more,” an encore of Ares and This Modern Love concludes an exhilarating evening. The four stand in line and take a bow, which extends the theatre-like experience of those in the balcony seats, but is also the sign of a band that enjoys performing and truly appreciates their fans.

Bloc Party

Gig Review by Farhana Alam
Gig Photos by Helen Williams

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