Bloc Party, Maximo Park, Everything Everything, Delphic, Spector and Findlay, Xfm Winter Wonderland, Apollo, Manchester



Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke is in fittingly combative mood, given how he has bulked up during his band’s three-year hiatus.

They are capping their Muhammad Ali-style comeback by headlining the first of Xfm’s two charity-aiding festive jamborees. Yet increasingly, it is the prospects of British guitar bands that seem most in need of aid, a week since Wu Lyf’s singer announced the demise of that shadowy Mancunian outfit after just one album.

Several examples of this beleaguered genre are on the bill, the only exception being the sassy solo artist Findlay, a Corrie Joan Jett in a gamine frame, oddly reminiscent of Mel C’s rockier phases. It is Spector that sound the most brittle tonight, as their tinny recreations of Killers-style (read sub-Bruce) anthems rattle around the theatre.

Livewire frontman Fred Macpherson stumbles over lyrics and demands his band replay a forgotten verse – not clever during a 20 minute set.

No such issues for the second of the night’s local acts, as the razor-sharp Delphic edge away from the headlong propulsion of debut album Acolyte that saw them given Olympic soundtrack approval. Now they are exploring the kinetic possibilities of r’n’b with a pop sheen, think Hurts without the retro affectations. Expanded to a five-piece, the group comfortably fill the space with a bullishness that belies their nerdy looks.

It is Everything Everything, though, that show the most promise. From quirky mathrock beginnings, the band led by the strutting Jonathan Higgs still fizz with invention while allowing luminescent tunes to emerge from the Higgs’s falsetto, the ricochet drums and trilling guitar. Even with its twitchy rhythms and vocal ticks, the souful ‘Don’t Try’ sounds arena-ready.

Paul Smith makes the most impressive entrance, bounding on stage as if making up for Maximo Park’s own three-year hiatus. His Tiggerish enthusiasm feels sorely missed as he injects life into the navel-gazing angst that runs from hectic newbie ‘National Health’ to old favourites ‘Our Velocity’ and ‘Going Missing’, the Sunderland band’s more linear post-punk stylings a refreshing palate cleanser after such rich fare.

Tonight, though, bel ongs to Bloc Party, who close with a generously hit-filled set, delivered with a testosterone-fuelled swagger that evinces the benefits of their break.

He may lack Okereke’ biceps, but guitarist Russell Lissack is fiercely muscular on ‘Kettling’ and even crunches over the piano-led ‘One More Chance’. Matched by a cannonade of glittering confetti, they provide an explosive finale.

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