Remember way back in 2012 when I said I was going to take a break from the blog? Well, here we are 25 days later and I have been inspired to write by the most unlikely of bands. I really figured it would take some extremely exciting new sound to get me logged in to WordPress to share my new discovery — something so good that keeping it to myself could only be seen as selfish. Instead, I am here in an attempt to channel some of my excess energy into words. Bloc Party energy. I am literally still riding a high from the show last night. A show by Bloc Party. Not some new sound, just a ‘full blast smack upside my head’ reminder of a band I wrote off nearly half a decade ago.
Why was the show such a surprise? Well, it actually wasn’t. Between ’05 – ’07 I was able to see Bloc Party no less than four times at various venues around the bay area. Every day, as I sit at my desk in my home office, I only have to turn my head slightly right for a reminder of one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. The framed Fillmore poster of the monkey and the cube marks the date as June 1st, 2005 — the first time Bloc Party melted my face with a sound that could never hope to be captured in a recording studio. Silent Alarm was a damn good (if not great) album, but nothing about that debut prepared for Kele’s vitality on stage. Which is to say nothing about Matthew Tong’s unabashed enthusiasm. The fact that those two could paint Russell Lissack and Gordon Moakes in an unassuming light was only further evidence of how captivating these blokes from London really were. Although nothing can compare to experiencing something for the first time, all subsequent Bloc Party shows were events worth remembering — even post-A Weekend In The City, when not all the songs were up to par with the debut album. But then Intimacy was released and I was unable to follow the band down the road that led to their inevitable hiatus. Bloc Party fell victim to blog-hype/instant-fame and found it hard to figure out who they were supposed to be, much less who they really were.
The hiatus lasted a couple years (a lifetime when you consider the shelf life of bands these days) before they made their comeback with an album that literally sounded like a different band. Much heavier, and almost unrecognizable on the first spin, Bloc Party might have found who they were, but was anyone willing to listen? I will admit that I didn’t give it much of a chance. Four is just not my thing. In my humble opinion, Bloc Party now has 1 very good album, 1 good album, 1 mediocre album and 1 bad album. It was for this reason that I never really considered going to the show this week. Despite the poster on my wall and all the great memories of the live version of this band, I felt time had change both of us.
In a week when The Walkmen, Cat Power and Bloc Party are all playing the Ogden, I have joked with friends that this would have been a great week in 2005. But hidden in the humor was a bit of melancholy. For a few years back then ‘indie rock’ seemed to thrive in spite of itself. I miss those days. So when I found out a group of friends were going to the show (many to see Bloc Party for the first time) and that they had an extra ticket, I found myself on Colfax before I could change my mind. A little business over beers at Cheeky Monk, a few cocktails at The 2Up (a great addition to that strip of Colfax), being floored by IO Echo…by the time Tong walked onto the stage wearing nothing by jean cutoffs, I was beyond ready! My excitement accelerated by reliving prior shows through words to those who had never seen them before. Although, as I am realizing as I am writing this, words are no substitute for the actual performance. There is no way to explain what is feels like to be in the crowd at the end of “Positive Tension” when everyone in the room screams “So fucking useless!!!“
Last night’s show started with a whisper. Although Tong decided to ditch his shirt backstage, Kele came out in a jacket and and was pretty calm as he sang “So Here We Are”. There are many times in my life that I’ve wished for a teleportation machine, but the first notes of that song were the closest I’ve ever come to actually using one, as I was instantly transported back to my little apartment in San Francisco. They could have played nothing but new stuff after that and I would have been happy. Although, I’ll never complain that the set (and 2 encores) consisted of five songs from my favorite album.
Looking back at the setlist, it’s hard to believe that half the show was comprised of material from Four and Intimacy — two albums I don’t care for. Yet in a live setting, I didn’t mind that material at all. In fact, with the exception of “We Are Not Good People”(an uncharacteristically boring part of the set), I thoroughly enjoyed all the new stuff. In fact, “Kettling” might have been the most intense and moving (literally, the ground was shaking) moment of the night.
The show latest an hour and a half (counting both encores) and included 20 songs from across their career. There was something for everyone. And although it was not a sold-out crowd, the place was pretty packed, and I can only speak for myself and those who were with me, but I seriously doubt anyone was disappointed when they closed the night with “Helicopter”. “Are you hoping for a miracle?!!!“
Bloc Party might not ever be as big as they were in ’05, but that’s ok. They seem to have right-sized themselves as a band. No longer indie darlings, they are standing on their own now. The fans that stuck with them through the hiatus and the new album are probably going to be fans for life, and with how many bands disappear after their 15 minutes of fame, the fact that Bloc Party are standing where they are is nothing less than the miracle they were hoping for.
So Here We Are
Hunting for Witches
Waiting for the 7.18
Song for Clay (Disappear Here)
We Are Not Good People
This Modern Love