Bloc Party | 01.19.13

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Kele-blue-75 1981The loyal, but somewhat sparse crowd had an amplified reaction to the band’s seamless transitions.

 

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Photos: Laura Hamlett

The Pageant, St. Louis

The terrain of Bloc Party’s albums has paralleled their career. Honest emotion without the melodrama. Rough patches that careen into slick fragments. Vibrant pounding that develops into smooth patches. It is not without expectation that a band marked for their live performance would validate these qualities at their Pageant performance.

Bloc Party wove through tracks from their three previous discs and the new, aptly named Four. The set was precisely practiced without coming across as stiff, unemotional, or overly rehearsed. The programmed and on-cue lighting strikes signaled rhythmic changes and dramatized guitar strums, and prompted the audience to chant and jump. The set design—a simple but modern art-inspired black and white backdrop fronted by four, brightly colored and illuminated blocks—seemed to symbolize the moods of the band members.

As he does with the band’s recorded material, Matt Tong cuts through the center, balancing his ubiquitous drumming with song-focused styling. Tong proves you don’t need an army of drums like Neil Peart to be creative, dynamic, and downright nasty on the skins. Like a workhorse, he gets the job done efficiently without showmanship—and then he takes his (shirtless) bow.

Bassist Gordon Moakes solidly backed up Kele Okereke on vocals while providing staccato and fluid bass lines, and guitarist Russell Lissack, who remains less engaged on the periphery, attacks his instrument with downward strums as if to prove to himself that he is equally invested.

But it was vocalist/rhythm guitarist Kele Okereke who appeared the most authentic and emotive. Okereke often danced with and caressed his guitars like a child with a prized teddy bear. Throughout the two-hour set, Okereke controlled loops with his stomping feet, clapped in rhythm with the audience, fist-pumped at the lights, swayed and danced (sans guitar on “Ares”), and crashed to the floor. Rarely speaking during the first set, Okereke finally broke the fourth wall when he pleaded to the crowd, “I hope you are pacing yourself.” This came after the loyal, but somewhat sparse crowd had an amplified reaction to the band’s seamless transition between “A Song for Clay (Disappear Here)” and “Banquet.”

Bloc Party proved to be an enigmatic party band. The note-specific prog-rock riffs of “Hunting for Witches,” the hard rack barre chords of “Coliseum,” and dancehall disco beats of “This Modern Love” incited fist-pumping, moshing, and dancing throughout the evening.

Opener Io Echo’s set was more confusing than uninspiring, but debate can be made over whose fault that may be. The L.A. band has been lauded for their layered sound, but with a semi-inventive formation of two guitarists, drums, and programmed loops and keys, they seem to be relatively recycled and slightly schizophrenic. The crowd didn’t seem impressed, but were polite nonetheless and sporadically cheered on lead vocalist Ioanna as she pogoed center stage and waved her arms like a child caught in a flurry of Silly String. Her vocals and persona wavered between the elegance of Florence Welch and the power of Grace Slick. Maybe her overtly dramatic stage presence and the discount-store, Asian-themed stage designs led to the crowd’s aesthetic confusion. Sporting a kimono, smiley-face encrusted sweatshirt, and skinny pants, she looked as professional as a tween dancing in her PJs and singing into a hairbrush. Even after her cool-hearted, ironic plea to The Pageant’s outer perimeter to stand up because “this isn’t dinner theatre,” an atmosphere of passivity persisted. At least until Bloc Party made their appearance. | J. Church

 

 

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