words & photos: Sarah Rix @sarahrix
“Bloc Party’s Melbourne show was proof of the band’s lasting legacy.”
Surely it’s weird to be in a band that’s put out four albums since a 2005 debut, knowing that what the people almost singularly want to hear is where it all began. It’s hard to discount how nice it is, though, that a band is strong enough to acknowledge and deliver it. It paid off for Bloc Party – a near-sold-out stadium welcoming them to Melbourne to hear Silent Alarm in full.
“Thank you Melbourne!” came the yell from Australian collective Haiku Hands, opening the night. “We’re in an arena!”
The four-piece were making the most of the enlarged stage space, too – quick to bring out their synchronised dance moves to complement their blasts of very self-aware electronic-pop. Those that showed up to Melbourne’s Margaret Court early were treated to big beats, plenty of the aforementioned dance moves, and an all-around party on the stage.
How much of a party was it? Well, they even had a song about being at a party (in which they pondered my eternal rhetorical question: “What do I do with my hands?”). Other subject material revolved around squatting (the exercise regime, to be clear, not the property-type) and, on “Jupiter” – a song that dropped in the bass line from Vince Staples’ “Big Fish” – one-two-three punching.
The call-and-response structure of a song featuring the lyrics “you can be my man, bitch”, sounded like an Aqua throwback – perhaps as serious, lyrically, as the seminal hit “Barbie Girl”. Indeed, much of the band’s written material may as well have been lifted from Urban Dictionary. That is to say, it’s all very millennial.
It also seems so very easy. They’re the sort of band you look at and wonder why you haven’t pursued your own musical career. Surely any punter could jot down a bunch of hashtags and have a party on stage without even needing to worry about instruments – just let the pre-recorded electronics do all the heavy lifting. But then you get to thinking: if a bunch of DJs can do the electronic parts without the live vocals, why can’t this bunch of ragtag, likeable scamps do the exact opposite?
Don’t be fooled, either. There’s certainly big ambitions hidden inside the carefree delivery. A listen to 2017’s “Not About You” showed as much. Get these ladies on a festival stage and watch the sweaty masses go bonkers for it.
Bloc Party are no strangers to a festival-sized stage, either. The British band has played to their fair share of massive crowds. In large part, that’s thanks to the overwhelming success of their 2005 debut, Silent Alarm – an album that was flanked by indie rock defining albums from the likes of The Strokes, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol, and Franz Ferdinand.
That’s all to say that you should never discount nostalgia. It’s enough to draw even the most casual of fans out to Margaret Court on a Tuesday night, all in the hopes of reliving pivotal moments of their teenaged adolescence, or even for the chance to sing along to what can still be considered a very, very good album.
With jilting, mid-aughts guitar lines and Kele Okereke’s booming voice at the helm, Bloc Party’s Melbourne show was proof of the band’s lasting legacy.
While their subsequent albums have never quite reached the lofty peaks that Silent Alarm set out (going more and more electronic in its later years and offering up a tepidly received six-song encore consisting of newer material to close off the night,) it’s clear the years spent touring have helped them build up their musical talents – delivering the entire album with the heft you’d hope for. Okereke’s voice rang out on “Price of Gas”, delivering the call to arms “we’re gonna win this” to a packed floor.
While his voice broke slightly on “This Modern Love” (a song released an entire seven years before Tinder!), it continues to be those humanistic elements that makes this band something to rally around. Plus when those instrumentals break and the crowd bounces into action, a burst of confetti raining through the air, it’s hard not to feel that swell in your chest – Okereke crooning the original “U up?” with: “Do you want to come over and kill some time? Throw your arms around me.”
It wasn’t all moments of reflection though – there were also calls to get rowdy, Okereke prescient in his statement of “things are about to get hectic” as the four-piece launched into three big ones: “Banquet”, “Positive Tension”, and “Helicopter”.
As they closed out their 19-song set with “Flux” from 2007’s A Weekend in the City, Okereke said to the audience: “I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane as much as we have.” It was hard not to.
Silent Alarm was an album you might have grown up with. It’s a record that may have soundtracked a lot of important, formative moments of your life. It’s also probably a collection of tracks that you’re still listening to today. As their current tour proves: rightfully so. Thank goodness Bloc Party know how to play to a crowd.