It’s been nearly three years since Bloc Party last took to the stage in Scotland. On that occasion they played Dunfermline’s steep Alhambra Theatre on their self dubbed “Bloctober” tour (the Sheldon Cooper’s among you will have deduced it was indeed in October). Tonight The Garage in Glasgow was the venue chosen for a gig that not so long ago looked like it may never happen. Numerous solo endeavours and rumours of recording sessions without lead singer Kele Okereke meant that a black veil of mystery had shrouded the future of the band. However it seems we should never have doubted that the rise in the “price of gas” had resulted in it costing too much to fuel the Bloc Party engine.
At around half past 8 the club lights fell and the packed crowd in The Garage enthusiastically ushered the foursome out of their self imposed exile and back into the spotlight. Picking up their instruments and taking no time to bask in the applause they launched straight into new song “3×3” which was quickly followed by another new number “So He Begins To Lie”. Both received good responses from the fans but as Kele announced “this is a golden oldie” the shouts and applause doubled in decibel level as “Mercury” pumped out of the sound system. Not that I want to question Kele but being of the Silent Alarm generation of Bloc Party fans I don’t really class “Mercury” as a golden oldie. If they had jumped into “The Marshals Are Dead” then I would be more likely to agree with him. “Hunting for Witches” followed with the band bathed in green light playing furiously. As Matt and Gordon’s driving rhythm section blended flawlessly with Russell’s angular guitar work and Kele’s distinctive vocals they looked like they had never been away. Before playing another new song “Real Talk” which revolved around the lyric “I was so sure I was faulty” Kele got round to mentioning the fact that they had a new album titled “Four” coming out in August. The song itself got a somewhat muted response, polite but not overly enthusiastic.
I always think it’s unfair to be too hard on new songs when the first time you hear them is in the live environment. Songs always sound better if you have a familiarity with them, even if it’s just a hook or a few memorable lyrics. To go in blind and be bombarded with lots of new songs is never easy for a crowd no matter how much love they have for the band. Bear in mind all we have heard from Bloc Party for a couple of years is a jumbled album teaser video which let’s be honest revealed nothing. However saying that it also takes balls from the band even at a fan club gig like tonight to come out and play 7 new songs to an audience who haven’t heard a single note of it before.
Mid set I got what I had been waiting for as Gordon Moakes exclaimed “this is going out to 2005 before the credit crunch”. The unmistakeable sound of “Banquet” got the whole of The Garage shouting “I’m on Fire”. I must say from a personal point of view the combination of the venue and the music did take me back to 2005. I spent many university days/nights or should that be university haze/nights consuming 50p vodkas in the attic bar. That’s enough reminiscing back to the music.
The new song which left the biggest impression on me was “Team A” which kele made the point of telling us was called “Team A not the A Team”. Just in case we thought it was homage to Hannibal, B.A, Murdoch and Face. It grew to a heavy clattering climax with Matt Tonge’s drumming really standing out. Kele was obviously feeling the heat as he leaned into the microphone and shouted “you’re making me sweat”. This prompted several female members of the audience to shout for him take his top off. In good humour he replied with “if you want that send me notes this way”.
The main set drew to a close with two more classic tracks from Silent Alarm in the shape of the ever rousing sing along of “This Modern Love” and the driving whir of “Helicopter”. The band then left the stage to a deafening applause, however this exuberance was short lived and what followed was perhaps the poorest shout for an encore I have ever witnessed in all my years of gig going. It was almost as if the inevitability of them playing one had nullified the crowds need to actually show any wish or desire for the band to play more songs. Thankfully despite this muted call from the audience the band did return. Although the lacklustre effort didn’t go unnoticed as Kele quite rightly shouted for the crowd to “show me more fight”. They played a four song encore which spanned their four albums to date culminating in a frenetic version of “Flux”.
An hour and a half on, 7 new songs played and a run through of some old favourites. Bloc Party are back with as much raw passion and energy as ever. The fact that a three date fan club tour sold out almost instantly shows that a hunger for the band and its music still very much exists. I would bet once the album has been released and digested by the fans that the new songs will be received with much more enthusiasm.
And please when the tour hits Glasgow this “Bloctober” for god’s sake make some attempt to get an encore and show your appreciation for a band playing their hearts out. A clap, a shout, a stamp, a fuck you Carling Academy beer prices, anything just make some noise, we are Scottish after all.