So here we are. After various side-projects, a three-year hiatus and the briefest of UK tours to promote 2012’s Four, Bloc Party have arrived at the not-long-for-this-earth Earls Court for their biggest ever show.
And though, for most, this is a concert watched from 100 metres away on a video screen, the Londoners have done their best to brighten things up. A stunning set, centred on the four coloured concentric circles from Four’s front cover which spin and light up to the rhythms coming from the stage and the big-screen cameras are angled to set singer Kele Okereke in the middle.
This is also the penultimate gig booked at this famous venue (Example plays the next night) and given the new Apple device-like queues for the loos and bars, it feels like its time has come for hosting these mega shows, even if the booming sound of its main room and all-standing capabilities make it infinitely preferable to the venue which has replaced it as London’s biggest indoor gig space (The O2). One hopes that Bloc Party picked the infinitely more romantic Earls Court as a minor up yours to the Greenwich corporadome.
Even from miles back, it’s clear what is what a stunningly tight group they are. Especially drummer Matt Tong, who drills relentlessly on his kit (shirt off - as always - like Adam from HBO’s Girls). Tong’s beats accelerate tracks like Silent Alarm’s “Positive Tension” through the air particles of the giant room. Meanwhile, guitarist Russell Lissack - whose spidery, twitchy sound helped propel Bloc Party out of toilet venues and to the top of festival bills is still imperious. Some of the evening’s finest moments come from the whoops at his frantic, intense Telecaster hammering.
The occasional weak link is Okereke. It may be the scale of the occasion combined with his natural shyness, but he seems entirely unrelaxed as he introduces the band to the crowd. And, for a lyricist whose work is soon to be compiled in a book, it’s noticeable than even in a huge boozy live venue, his less abstract declarations still grate, with songs like the the Less Than Zero-referencing “Song For Clay (Disappear Here)” feeling terribly clunky.
Fortunately , when Okereke rolls into the revelries like “Flux” (toploaded here with a verse of Rihanna’s glorious “We Found Love”); “Banquet”; the house piano-powered “One More Chance” and the closing “Helicopter” he’s able to project himself across the audience and transfer his smile on to the faces of the mainly tired and emotional Friday night crowd.
Like Earls Court, they might not be around at this scale for much longer, but Kele and co can consider this a decent way to begin to fade out.
So He Begins to Lie
Hunting for Witches
Waiting for the 7.18
Song for Clay (Disappear Here)
('Kele - Tenderoni' intro)
One More Chance
This Modern Love
('Rihanna - We Found Love' intro)