The Kele Dance Party at Summit Music Hall

Last time Bloc Party came through San Francisco I didn’t go.  I had tickets but I opted out.  We couldn’t find a sitter and I decided I would be the one who stayed home.  It’s not that I didn’t want to go.  I think I was making up for something I did wrong.  I did a lot of wrong things back then.  Anyway, this was back in 2008 before the band went on hiatus and before Kele went solo.  There was more than one occasion where I regretted my decision that night.  Bloc Party were not my favorite band at the time, but they were one of my favorite live bands.  Silent Alarm was a great album, but after that I lost interest in their recorded work.  A Weekend in the City just didn’t do it for me and even though I’m not sure Intimacy had been released, I really didn’t like that album.   But it doesn’t matter if they play material you like or don’t care for…a live Bloc Party experience is a great Bloc Party experience and frontman Kele is one of the major factors in that experience. This is the reason my girlfriend came home raving about the show that night.  This is the reason I decided to check out Kele‘s performance at the new Summit Music Hall last night.  Not because I love his solo electronic/dance material, not because The Boxer is a great album, but because Kele is an entertainer and if he’s having fun on stage, the people lucky enough to be there will experience something amazing.

Does It Offend You, Yeah? were the openers at The Fillmore back in 2008 and the responses from my friends who went were very positive.  Last night they were the first of what was billed a dual-headlining show.  We only caught the last 20 minutes of their 45 minute set, but what we did catch was an impressive display of frantic, in-your-face electro punk.  An extravaganza of noise that had the crowd on their feet, hands in the air and dancing to the thundering beat.  It’s too bad their set was cut so short because I would have liked to have heard more of what they had to offer.

‘Hello, I’m Kele.’  Those words, after the opening song, Walk Tall, answered a question I have been asking myself for awhile now.  How do you pronounced Kele.  A friend heard it on a Seattle radio station as Key-Lee and I heard it on interview as Kay-Lay and I had always thought it was Key-Lay.  Anyway, it’s much more simple than all that.  It’s pronounced KellyKelly.  Short for Kelechukwu.

Kele started the night out with 4 tracks from his solo album, The Boxer.  Wearing a Notre Dame sleeveless shirt and gym shorts, backed by a drummer and draped on each side by a male and female keyboardists, Kele‘s energy on stage projected onto the crowd and caused everything from spontaneous slam dancing to pogoing to crowd surfing.

‘so, how did you do at the baseball’ he asked in his heavy British accent referring to The Rockies game that had just ended, before being handed his instrument and informing the crowd ‘this is a guitar’.  This is not a man without a sense of humour or a lack of energy.  Playing to a very small audience, Kele performed like he was standing in front of thousands.  Even saying this is the ‘most fun he’s had in Denver’ several times throughout the night.

As expected, some Bloc Party material was present in the setlist.  ‘For those of you who don’t know, I am in another band…The Fugees’ he joked before going into a medley of Bloc Party songs that started off with Blue Light.  This was a highlight of the night, but I have to admit The Boxer tracks translate much differently live.  They sound a lot more like Bloc Party songs.  I would even go as far as saying they almost fit Kele‘s style a little better.  The only thing I noticed missing vs. the Bloc Party shows I have seen was Matt Tong.  The drummer present last night was just no match for that shirtless Asian drum machine!

As usual, Kele was also shirtless about half way through the set.  I read recently that he has come out of the closet and was voted sexiest ‘out’ musician by some publication recently.  This news, coupled with his dance-oriented material, had me expecting a large homosexual element to the show.  This didn’t turn out to be the case.  In fact, I think most of the crowd was actually there for Does It Offend You, Yeah? because it did thin out after their set and I even heard one guy mention that they should have played last.

After the  Bloc Party material he went into his first solo single, Tenderoni, before closing the main set with Rise.  A powerful ending that just left us wanting more.  Especially since he hadn’t even played for an hour.

Luckily he came back onstage with Yesterday’s Gone.  A song that was cut short when a crowd surfer fell.  Throughout the show you could tell Kele was having a problem with the security standing by the stage, at one point I swear he kicked one of them.  Now, stopping midway through this song, he made sure the person was alright before imploring the crowd to ‘please (not) crowd surf, because security is asleep and you’re taking your life into your own hands‘.

After that brief exchange, he closed the night out with All The Things I Could Never Say and the Bloc Party single Flux.

A great performance that was cut way too short.  I realize he only has one album as Kele, but that album has 11 songs, not to mention all the Bloc Party material he could pull from.  If this was really a dual-headlining show, each band should have been given at least an hour and half instead of 45 mins.  That is my only complaint about my first night at Summit Music Hall. An interesting venue with only one level (good!), high stage (good!) and televisions showing Sports Center during the show (hmmm).  I can see this place being a pain if it’s sold out, you could easily get stuck in obstructed view areas, but last night it was perfect.

Kele Setlist Summit Music Hall, Denver, CO, USA 2010