Bloc Party @ Plymouth Pavilions
26 October 2009
With an extended break in the pipeline, Kerry Mason checks out Bloc Party at Plymouth Pavilions before it's too late...
First up are Grammatics, a four piece from Leeds whose epic art rock compliment Bloc Party perfectly. With singer Owen Brinley’s operatic vocal style, an original addition of a cello and driving drums they stay clear from becoming ‘the next…’ - an impressive feat.
However, maybe it’s the muffled acoustics of the venue that has got them down but they remain static throughout their set, failing to rev up the audience. They appear sullen and bored on stage and if the band don’t look like they are having fun, the chances are the crowd will follow suit.
Fortunately, they wake up towards the last three songs and get the audience clapping along to ‘D.I.L.E.M.M.A’, their standout track. Grammatics have great, great songs and a different sound; hopefully their performances will catch up soon.
40 minutes later, after a lot of instrument twiddling in the darkness, Bloc Party saunter on stage. Frontman Kele Okereke still beams a smile looking as though he is as happy to be there as much as the audience are happy to see him. A quick ‘Good Evening’ to the crowd and, with the acoustics sorted, they crash straight into ‘One Month Off’ a fitting song considering the recent news they are to take an extended “break”.
There’s a slight hiccup with guitars early on, but rather than apologies and carry on, they seize the opportunity and inject determination to succeed in providing a stellar gig. Forever topless drummer Matt Tong ferociously bangs his drums at a hundred miles an hour and is featured up on a platform for all to marvel. Half way through he leaves his kit to do some odd dancing – obviously enjoying himself – but it seems to add further fuel to the rumours that he is leaving the band for good.
The majority of the set is taken from ‘Intimacy’ putting everyone in an electric mood. With the crowd jumping around and shouting the lyrics back at Kele in all the right places.
A confident Kele spends time interacting with the crowd, constantly chatting in between songs and after a rhythmic ‘Positive Tension’ announces “it's time to get the party started” launching into a frantic ‘Mercury’. He throws himself into the audience on three separate occasions each time resulting in a mobbing; “I feel like I’m in JLS” he quips. Thankfully, they haven’t turned their backs on the raw, fragile songs of ‘Silent Alarm’ and treat the crowd to ‘So Here We Are’ in the encore. The only real disappointment is the set list sees them safely stick to singles, although for once, they skip ‘Two More Years’ - easily their most accessible song. Live they are both vigorous and intimate, their mis-matched instrument and electronica use works, creating an original and versatile sound.
As always, they finish with the roaring ‘Helicopter’ that surprisingly still sounds fresh five years on. And despite their experimental musical directions, the older tracks never feel out of place. Bloc Party have the ability to outshine them all, so let’s hope their extended break doesn’t become an indefinite one.
By Kerry Mason.
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