Bloc Party | 03.23.07

bloc0307Bloc Party always puts on a tremendous live show with infinite and frenetic energy, but the material at times could be better.

 

w/Albert Hammond Jr.
Congress Theater, Chicago

Bloc Party exploded over two years ago with its memorable debut, Silent Alarm. They emerged during the post-punk resurgence of 2005 following the lead of Kaiser Chiefs, the Futureheads, and Maximo Park. Silent Alarm's gritty and raw guitar riffs and non-instant gratifying songs of a political nature pushed the band to the forefront of the genre and established them as a band to watch. Since then, the group has accrued millions of devotees from all over the world.

In February, they released their sophomore album, A Weekend in the City, and immediately a backlash formed from critics and fans alike. Weekend is more polished, with its anthemic production numbers akin to U2. Similar themes from Alarm are integrated in the new songs, but the consensus seems to be they have faltered and in return have turned off their core fan group who latched to the exhilarating Alarm.

Luckily, the sold-out show at Congress Theater was an indication not everyone has turned against the band. The Congress is an immense, old-style theater that probably once was quite stunning in its heyday but now has become somewhat dilapidated. This venue is a departure for the quartet, who debuted in Chicago at the much smaller Metro two years ago. Tonight they demonstrated how much their popularity has grown since then.

After a performance from Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr., Kele Okereke and Co. mounted the stage with a perpetual light show. They opened with the heavy "Song for Clay (Disappear Here)" from the latest album, and immediately camera phones lit up the audience pit. The band was in top form with propulsive rhythms, drums, and guitars.

Okereke is an affable lead singer with a stage presence that captivates the audience. At certain moments, the lights shone onto the crowd, revealing a sea of people—hordes really—singing along, throwing fists in the air, and engaging in the rock ‘n' roll. On the downside, the acoustics in the venue weren't so great with the sound ricocheting off the walls, but tonight it didn't matter, because the rockness still bled through. Up next was "Positive Tension" from Alarm, followed by "Hunting for Witches" from Weekend. The band drew equally from both albums, and mixing up the set by alternating between the two.

Okereke stopped to chat for a bit, discussing the "large amount of you" coming out despite the bad weather. The bass-driven "Banquet" rocked hard, with the subsequent "This Modern Love," one of the best songs in their oeuvre. They performed the penultimate "The Prayer," the first single off Weekend, and wrap the set up with "Like Eating Glass," the opener on Silent Alarm. It's probably the song that introduced a lot of fans to the band, and tonight it sounded quite good, becoming a sort of forgotten track.

After a quick break, the encore kicked in with the sentimental "I Still Remember" and then two songs from Alarm: "She's Hearing Voices" and "Helicopter." On the latter, the crowd screamed out the lyrics as they sang along. Some crowd surfing developed, along with a chaotic array of colored lights filling the arena.

The standouts of the evening were definitely the Alarm tracks, because they are the band's most familiar songs. Bloc Party always puts on a tremendous live show with infinite and frenetic energy, but the material at times could be better. Even though they haven't reached Arcade Fire status, their potential to be a consistently great rock band remains. | Garin Pirnia

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