Records are timeless. The musicians who make them however are not. They’re human beings, subject to the emotional and physical toll of a life. As London indie gods Bloc Party took the stage at Melbourne’s Forum Theatre on Tuesday night, there was no denying a lot had changed since the last time they graced Australian stages in 2012. Musically and personally.
The unfamiliar presence of Justin Harris on bass and Louise Bartle on drums alongside founding members vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Kele Okereke and guitarist/keyboardist Russell Lissack was the most obvious indicator that Bloc Party are not the band they used to be, but the stylistic change present in songs performed from forthcoming album Hymns proved to the be the most telling, with the audience reaction, a split between enthusiastic and polite applause, markedly different to the utter mayhem that greeted older material.
Despite this the second coming of Bloc Party managed to ensure the sold-out crowd of true believers were left dancing like the hiatus never happened on Tuesday night, courtesy of a cleverly selected hour and a half that drew from across their celebrated discography.
Never a band to shy away from a challenge, Bloc Party opened with the ballsy pairing of new tracks Eden and The Good News, which were reasonably well received, before the familiar sounds of Octopus (from 2012’s Four) and She’s Hearing Voices (from 2005’s beloved Silent Alarm) inspired the first action from a sweltering dance floor.
As Kele sang “She got a red pill, blue pill” it seemed that many in my vicinity were experiencing the kick-in from pills of a different kind. Real Talk followed before the dance floor ground to a halt as Kele took a moment to acknowledge and engage with a fan named Keegan from Canberra who had flashed a moonie revealing a Bloc Party tattoo. This earned a rapturous applause from the crowd and a song dedication (Virtue off Hymns) for the nights new hero Keegan.
Crowd perspective of the ass tattoo credit: Louis Foo
Song for Clay (Disappear Here) provided an opportunity for an arena wide sing-a-long which the crowd willingly took, before pandemonium predictably ensued upon the first few notes of signature tune Banquet. Other tracks such as One More Chance and recent single The Love Within were warmly received, before Ratchet saw the band make their premature exit to an approving roar, which only continued to increase in volume until Kele led the band back onstage for a four song encore which started meekly with the newer track Into The Earth and then exploded to life with old favourites Helicopter, Flux and This Modern Love.
That encore served as a microcosm of the night as a whole, as despite strong performances from all involved (the newbies and Russell didn’t miss a beat and Kele remains as talented and affable as ever) and what appear to be quite decent new offerings, none of the newer material clicked in the same way tracks off of Silent Alarm, A Weekend In The City or even Four did. This may well prove to be due to a lack of familiarity, but to my eyes and ears it beckons danger.
Make no mistake about it, Hymns needs to be a hit, otherwise much like tonight Bloc Party might find themselves thankful that they still have the old tracks to call upon, for when they do, they still sound like one of the most exciting live bands on the planet.
Openers Kate Boy, whose unique synth-pop flavour got the early building crowd entranced early were also exciting, with tracks off of their debut record One sounding great in the renowned Forums acoustics. This Swedish/Australian combo appears to be in for massive 2016.
Gallery: Bloc Party & Kate Boy / Phots by Michelle Pitiris