Gig Review: Bloc Party
The Astoria, London, January 31 2007
There are plenty of reasons to be cheerful if you're Bloc Party.
New single The Prayer is currently on course to win them their highest chart position yet on Sunday. A Weekend In The City, the follow-up to their hugely successful debut album, Silent Alarm, hits the shops on Monday and hype has been steadily building thanks to internet leaks and glowing early reviews.
And last nights show at Londons Astoria was the first of a dizzying 56-date tour that will see Kele, Russell, Gordon and Matt take their new record across the UK and on to Japan, the US, Canada and nearly a dozen European countries, before winding up in Lisbon in mid May.
So when they took to the stage shortly after 9pm it was a pleasure to see not the dour, self-important moaners their detractors paint them to be, but rather four guys who could quite clearly barely contain their excitement. For most of their 80 minute set, serious Kele had a Cheshire cat grin plastered over his face.
They kicked off with the new albums opener, Song For Clay, which began misleadingly softly but then exploded into a tangle of roaring guitars that set the entire ground floor off pogoing in a storm of spilt beer. Sensibly, considering theyre touring an album that hasnt yet been released, they mixed in nearly as many old tracks as they did new, and it was Silent Alarm classics like Banquet, So Here We Are and Like Eating Glass that picked up the noisiest responses.
But the old tunes are preaching to the converted. Last night the band had to prove that A Weekend In The City can stand shoulder to shoulder with Silent Alarm live. And they did. If the new tracks - The Prayer aside - didnt elicit quite as feverish a reaction as the oldies then thats sure to change once fans have had longer to get to know them.
Of the tracks on trial, Song For Clay was a strong opener, and later we heard Hunting For Witches, a classic slice of Bloc Party that wouldnt have sounded out of place on Silent Alarm, and of course The Prayer, which was hypnotic live and whipped the mob into a frenzy.
But the pick of the bunch had to be Waiting For The 7:18, a track that, again, opened deceptively quietly but soon broke off into a chorus so immense it could swallow a small continent, and is as good as anything on Silent Alarm. Why the hell isn't this going to be the second single?
By the end of an encore that saw Gordon swap his bass for a second drum kit and bravely accompany Matt (whose drumming was a breathtaking blur all night), the band still looked remarkably fresh. That probably wont still be true by the time they reach Lisbon.
Following up a smash hit debut album is a fearsome task, one that has crushed countless bands. But last night this foursome proved they were man enough for the job. Another reason to be cheerful if you're Bloc Party.