A Bloc-rockin’ party
How loud was the Bloc Party concert on March 22? Unless someone brought along a sound level meter, we may never know. But the ringing in our ears the next day is enough indication that the volume levels might have rivaled a jetliner taking off.
But this was a Bloc Party gig, and no one expected to be softly serenaded. The indie rock band takes inspiration from the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Mogwai, and Radiohead. The over 3,000 fans who turned up at the World Trade Center in Pasay City clearly expected Kele Okereke, Russell Lissack, Gordon Moakes, and Matt Tong to scream, rap, yodel, grate, and pound their 10-year story into extremely willing ears.
And did Bloc Party bring it on—for two hours, through a 21-song set list that tested the fans’ multitasking party abilities. Yes, they were taking cell phone videos of the band and of each other, texting envious friends who couldn’t make it, while jump-dancing and making sure their drinks didn’t spill, all within the cramped confines of the concert floor.
The set list was culled from Bloc Party’s four studio-released albums since 2003, when it got its big break on British radio airwaves, and some singles produced in-between those albums.
From its debut CD “Silent Alarm” (2005), Bloc Party performed “Positive Tension,” “So Here We Are,” “This Modern Love,” and “Helicopter.” From “A Weekend in the City” (2007), “Hunting for Witches,” “Waiting for the 7.18,” “Song for Clay (Disappear Here),” “The Prayer,” “Flux” and “Sunday.” From “Intimacy” (2008), “Mercury” and “Ares.” From their latest album “Four” (2012), “So He Begins to Lie,” “Team A,” “Coliseum,” “Day Four,” “Octopus” and “Truth.”
Okereke performed the introduction to his solo work, “Tenderoni,” just before the band launched into the wildly applauded “Banquet,” among Bloc Party’s earliest hits. The band also performed “One More Chance,” a single produced in the hiatus between “Intimacy” and “Four.”
The Friday night concert was a smorgasbord of Bloc Party’s evolving, changing sound, from the raw guitar-drum launch in “Banquet” (which borrows heavily from Franz Ferdinand), to the chill-out “So Here We Are,” to the techno-heavy “Flux,” and the predominantly back-to-roots selections from “Four.”
A Bloc Party song is instantly identified by Okereke’s British-inflected tenor and falsetto, Lissack’s and Moakes’ aggressive guitars, and Tong’s insane drums. Those mean beats coming from the arms and feet of this skinny, bespectacled man may explain the meaning of the group’s name. The Chemical Brothers’ “Block Rocking Beats” comes to mind. (Interestingly, the drumline of “Ares” sounds much like Chemical Brothers’ “Setting Sun”).
Okereke was as playful with his music as he was with the crowd. In the “Flux” intro, he sampled Rihanna’s “We Found Love” which, it turned out, he had been doing in other live shows since June 2012. He teased the audience to “be better” and “give it a fight”—while in frequent close-ups on the video walls, he was visibly pleased at the noisy, raucous crowd. Towards the end of “This Modern Love,” the crowd took over the singing of the last verse. As the crowd chanted, “Do you wanna come over and kill some time?/ Throw your arms around me,” Okereke, smiling ear to ear, set down his mic and closed his eyes. In a noisy concert heaven, he was.