Funky post-punk revolutionaries get the party started big style…
This time last year, Bloc Party were a bookish-looking unsigned band who made up for the fact that they were endlessly playing dingy bars to indie anoraks with a manifesto outlining their desire to “ditch the rock show”. How things have changed.
Tonight we’re sitting in a bar round the corner from the third date of their biggest UK tour so far watching guitarist Russell Lissack fold old bits of flyer into fortune-teller toys and discussing the fans who are filling up the sold-out venue. Drummer Matt Tong is outraged to hear bassist Gordon Moakes suggesting that a Bloc Party crowd consists predominantly of “younger girls”. “You can’t say that!” splutters Matt. Oops, we just did. Forget the fact that their debut album’s recorded and they’re set to be one of the biggest British bands of next year: the real sign of how much Bloc Party’s fortunes have changed is their unlikely status as pin-ups.
Still, it’s clear that it’s not just the young girls who are in love with Bloc Party. If Lock 17 burned down tonight, you wouldn’t just lose one of Britain’s brightest new groups and a roomful of freeloading music journos, but pretty much every person in London who aspires to be someone. Those are the people who go to a Bloc Party gig: young writers, photographers, label managers, and that one human embodiment of the word ‘aspiration’, Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell. Johnny will return again later in his own inimitable way.
As Bloc Party open with ‘Price Of Gasoline’ everyone, from the people dancing at the front right through to those standing at the back nodding in approval, is drawn in. During the hypnotic ‘She’s Hearing Voices’ and new single ‘Helicopter’, singer Kele Okereke is a combination of utter self-belief and shyness, peering out from behind his hair towards the crowd, as if to check people are still there. He introduces ‘This Modern Love’ by saying, “This is our ballad. Reach out and touch someone next to you.” And with the ice well and truly broken, people go wild.
Angular anthem ‘Banquet’ is met with the frankly alarming sight of crowd members clapping over their heads in time-honoured rock show fashion and almost drowned out by chants of “Ke-lee! Ke-lee!” – which the singer bemusedly deflects with a muttered, “Too kind.” Fun follows during ‘Little Thoughts’ when Bloc Party encounter a crowd surfer, and from the glee on Russell’s face, it looks like it might be their first. It’s definitely not the last.
Backstage afterwards a glowing Kele’s already planning some surprises for his band’s upcoming three Christmas shows. “We want to make them special,” he tells us. “I was thinking of fairy lights. Or maybe suits.” We’re interrupted by the door opening and the grand entrance of Johnny Borrell. He flashes a grin, walks straight up to Kele, and utters one word. “Irresistible,” he drawls, before turning on his heel and strutting out.
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We kind of knew that already, but you should believe him. Bloc Party will be the band of next year, no contest.