O2 Academy Birmingham, 15th October 2012
Support: Theme Park
When I last saw Bloc Party at the Reading Festival in 2009 it was the first time I’d seen them live, and I was completely captivated by them as they strobed, stomped and frantically strummed through their set on the main stage. I vowed to go and see again as soon as I could, but they thwarted my attempts to by going on a 3 year haitus. And that was that.
So imagine my glee when I saw that they had made plans to tour in 2012 for what they called “Bloctober”, following the release of their latest album, ‘Four’! I couldn’t wait to part with my money to get the tickets, although not quite quick enough it seems as I could only get balcony seats. As it turned out, this was probably a blessing in disguise…
Bloc Party were ably supported by Theme Park, who I’d not seen live before. After a tentative start they soon got into their stride with 4 of the 5 band members swapping jobs from song to song, like they were sharing a bag of pick ‘n’ mix. One band member in particular had his work cut out, multitasking between synth, guitar, vocals, and a baffling array of pedals, although this threatened to be his undoing at one point as he struggled to regain control of a rogue foot pedal that was evidently not supposed to be playing an escalating synth sound. However, apart from the more pronounced midrange of the song, he seemed to get away with it, and you could almost sense his relief as he pulled the plug out of the pedal at the end of the song. Overall, though, their set was reminiscent of the Friendly Fires kind of vibe, with happy, quirky, jig-inducing songs which were ever so slightly cheesy but in a good way. And they were the antithesis of the set that was to follow by the main act, which was a stroke of genius by whoever planned the gig.
From the moment they began, Bloc Party absolutely blew the roof off the venue. Kicking off with ‘Octopus’ from the new album, they pounded through their set like James Bond being chased by an angry herd of rhinos, but with more pace and precision. Matt Tong thrashed the drums with such fervour that at one point a technician had to come and revive a bit of kit that he’d killed. By the time they got to ‘Hunting For Witches’, I was regretting being stuck on a seat on the balcony rather than jumping around like a thing possessed on the floor below (although, due to a neck and shoulder injury it’s probably just as well). The pace continued with the band concentrating mostly on the tracks from ‘Four’, supported by some old favourites from their other 3 albums. But with each new stomper the mood in the mosh pits got increasingly more alarming. By the time they broke into the truly mental ‘Coliseum’ the fists had started flying and I could see at least 2 people with blood all over their faces. I will never understand why some people think this type of behaviour is acceptable at a gig (or anywhere else for that matter). It was clearly spoiling the enjoyment of the gig for the gig goers that inadvertently got embroiled in the action at floor level, and from my viewpoint on the balcony I could see a lot of people on my level being completely distracted by what was unfolding below (myself included).
Despite the mentalness of the moshpit, the band delivered sparkling performances for every single song. They succeeded in bringing things down a notch with ‘The Prayer’ and ‘V.A.L.I.S.’, only to bring the set to a shuddering climax with ‘We Are Not Good People’, which sent the troublemakers in the moshpit into an absolute frenzy.
All too quickly the first encore was upon us, with a few of their more subdued songs being thrown in before the mighty ‘Helicopter’, which was my absolute highlight of the gig. They deployed a genius trick of turning the lights off and on with military precision in time with the stops and starts of the song in the run up to the chorus, which added perfectly to the tension of the song. Of course the musicianship of Russell Lissack, Gordon Moakes, Kele Okereke (the lead singer) and Matt Tong really shone through, and it showed what a fantastically tight band they are.
Finally, for the second encore, they dusted off ‘Ares’, one of only two tracks played from their ‘Intimacy’ album. The bass drops absolutely shook the venue. They finished on a slightly odd choice, ‘This Modern Love’. At that point I’d have prefered the final song to be something like ‘Banquet’ or ‘Talons’ (both of which were played earlier in the set). But all in all it was a truly fantastic gig, marred only slightly by a few mindless, lairy thugs who seemed intent on getting fisty in the moshpit.
Nikki Hoath (aka Nikki Noodles) is a dance music producer, avid live music fan and music blogger. Follow Nikki on Facebook (www.facebook.com/nikkinoodles.dancemusic), Twitter (@Nikki_Noodles_) or on her Nikki’s Noodles blog (www.nikkinoodlesdancemusic.blogspot.co.uk).