Kele, Village Underground, London
Thursday 08 July 2010
"As you may or may not know, I have a day job in another band," says Kele Okereke mischievously from the tiny stage under Hoxton's stone arches. Indie-rock lovers couldn't fail to recognise the Bloc Party frontman's rich London voice, but they could be forgiven for a double-take. Thoroughly beefed up, vest-clad and cap tilted way back on his good-looking head, Okereke, or the The Boxer, as his new solo album attests, is grinning. It was a rare sight in his day job, and one you'd think would be even rarer now that the band is on indefinite hiatus, but it becomes highly familiar by the end of this brief, 50-minute set.
Introducing his new brand of brooding dancefloor electronica with "Walk Tall", which borrows the "I don't know but I've been told" of American military drills, Okereke decorates the old motif with thumping bass, hand claps and low synth buzz. It's an arresting sound that jump-starts audience heart rates, but someone's been too enthusiastic with the volume, and the bass feels like it could be measured on the Richter Scale. A spattering of hearing-conscious musos plug their fingers into their ears and the sound guys get the hint.
Okereke gets the maracas out for an exotically flavoured "The Other Side", but it isn't long before he gives the crowd a taste of old times. A danced-up medley of Bloc Party favourites includes "Blue Light", a drawly, off-beat "The Prayer", and "One More Chance".
It's Okereke's exciting debut single, "Tenderoni", that really lights up the venue, and gets the crowd as near to raving as they know how.
When he returns to the stage for his second encore ("Did you really think we were going to leave my hometown without doing one more song?"), "Flux" is an appropriate choice. There's no doubt that Okereke is a talented songwriter who knows how to get his crowd dancing, but this set borrows just that bit too much from the past to be a true challenge to Bloc Party convention.
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