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Gig Review: Bloc Party at the HMV Ritz

Alex Horne attends the much anticipated return of Bloc Party to Manchester

Written by . Published on June 21st 2012.

Gig Review: Bloc Party at the HMV Ritz

LAST night Bloc Party made a long delayed return to Manchester following their first live show in nearly three years in Glasgow on Tuesday. This three year hiatus has, from the outside, seemed to betray an uncertain future for the four-piece. An uncertainty compounded by frontman Kele Okereke’s solo album and teasing suggestions that the band would be auditioning a new singer while Okereke was absent.

Playing a bold set which included seven new songs the band displayed a confidence in their new material which was refreshing if slightly uncompromising.

Three years of apprehension made the band’s entrance all the more triumphant with Lissack’s unmistakable fringe and Okereke’s awkward swagger reassuringly still present. Midway through the night the frontman was prompted to reminisce that Bloc Party had been touring in the city for nine years; the gig at the HMV Ritz, however, was a distinctly forward looking affair. Playing a bold set which included seven new songs the band displayed a confidence in their new material which was refreshing if slightly uncompromising.

Bloc Party opened with two songs from the upcoming album ‘Four’ entitled ‘3x3’ and ‘Kettling’, both of which proved the band have lost none of the vitriol which raised them above the indie rock dirge of the mid-noughties. A subtle war of attrition took place until the incendiary ‘Trojan Horse’ plunged the audience into a frenzy and the haunting ‘Waiting for the 7:18’ resoundingly dispelled any lingering doubts from the crowd.

Bloc PartyBloc Party

This was followed by two more new songs ‘Real Talk’ and ‘Octopus’. The upbeat recoiling guitar work and vacillating vocals of ‘Real Talk’ place it as the track most influenced by the frontman’s solo work and the song was one of the stand outs of the new material. By the end of ‘Octopus’ however there was the sense that the band were testing the patience of the crowd.

Patience was duly rewarded, however, as ‘Song for Clay (Disappear Here)’ seamlessly flowed into ‘Banquet’ proving that neither the band’s instrumental prowess or energy for performance has dwindled. Two more new songs ‘Day Four’ and ‘Team A’ both revolved around the undulating rhythms and heavy metal drive pioneered on ‘Intimacy’ making full use of Matt Tong’s irrepressible athleticism on the drums. These powerful new tracks integrated perfectly with the stripped down piano-less ‘One More Chance’ (a highlight of the night) and the visceral ‘Helicopter’ which ended the first portion of the set.

The band inevitably returned to the stage to deliver final new track ‘Black Crown’. A track which further points towards the new album as being a continuation of the heavy sensibilities of ‘Intimacy’ with less of the experimental fragmentation which alienated some fans from the third album. ‘Black Crown’ was followed by ‘Ares’ to which the crowd descended into circle pits and pint throwing before the sublime ‘This Modern Love’ elevated everyone present, band and audience alike.

Bloc PartyBloc PartyOkereke’s ostensible joy during ‘This Modern Love’, the set’s crowning moment, encapsulated the sense of a celebratory return to live performance which was radiated by the band throughout the gig. The sneaky insertion of Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love’ showed a band still capable of enjoying themselves and begs comparison to the Girls Aloud cover Bloc Party toured with three years ago. The explosive final track ‘Flux’ ensured the band left the stage with the frothing audience baying for more.

Considering that last night’s concert was sold as an 'intimate' gig, to which only fan club members could buy tickets, a band with the B-side credentials of Bloc Party could have done more to appease the hardcore fans. Nevertheless ‘Four’ was the deserving star of the show and the band’s enthusiasm for the new material shone through. The precision and energy with which the four-piece hammered out tracks both old and new was faultless and suggests the band are ready to reignite the world when ‘Four’ is released this August.

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MichaelJune 21st 2012.

In my opinion I disagree that they could have done more to appease hard core fans. The gig was sold to fans as a chance to see a live rehearsal of the new songs! i went knowing i would hear a lot of songs i didnt know with plenty of classic thrown in. While I of course would love to have heard 16 classic tracks that wasnt the point. fans now know what to expect for 'Four' and I definitely liked what i heard so far. When Intimacy came out the band were critised for not doing this type of gig to know what reaction new songs got before they ended up on the album. The gig was amazing and I now i am even more excited for for August and Bloctober!

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