Since their inception in 1999, Bloc Party have meticulously crafted a unique blend of raw yet totally dance-able, effect-heavy post-punk that draws influence from Britain’s vast catalog of alt rock bands ranging from the depressed angst of Joy Division to the dance rock stylings of Depeche Mode. Now a solidified outfit of seasoned professionals, the foursome has one of the broadest reaches of any live act, easily entertaining the masses of electronic events like HARD or instigating mosh pits with the energy of a hardcore punk band. With Ceremony serving as concert opener, Kele Okereke kept his edge for dance music on the bus, and delivered a blistering performance that likely surprised much of Chicago’s Riviera Theater.
The Riviera filled early, but judging by the response of the crowd to Ceremony’s hardcore vigor, the audience merely arrived early for better sight lines of Okereke and company. Ceremony frontman Ross Farrar was up to his usual antics of monitor hopping and intimate crowd interactions, but those in attendance just never seemed to reciprocate this excitement. Often one to leave a show bloodied, Farrar barely received a high five when he jumped into the audience, let alone a rogue boot from a crowd surfer or fist from a circle mosher – neither of which occurred during Ceremony’s set. It may have been that Chicago was still recovering from the last weekend’s Riot Fest, or as Rock It Out! Blog‘s Sami Jarroush rightly asserted following the performance: “This was definitely a Bloc Party audience.”
As expected, Bloc Party’s show was heavy with material from its new LP, Four, with eight of the first 12 tracks combed from the album. To the dismay of fans that wanted to bask in older material, or at least hear a significant change from the release, the band never once deviated from even the album’s sequencing. That’s not to say they didn’t scale back some. Following this, the set conjured up fan favorites like “Hunting For Witches” (A Weekend in the City) and “Positive Tension” (Silent Alarm), both of which Okereke delivered through a visceral grimace.
After this first set of songs, it became obvious why so many people chose to be near the front for the performance – an appreciation for the mannerisms and crowd interactions of Okereke, who happily exclaimed prior to “The Prayer” that he had broken a spectator’s concert cherry, and the superb effects techniques of lead guitarist Russell Lissack. With over a dozen pedals and modulators lined in front of Lissack, the guitarist helps construct Bloc Party’s raw sound, but only though the constant manipulation of these tools. The visual production may have been top notch, but it’s easy to stay fixated on Lissack while light and designs swirl behind the band.
After a mini-break, the foursome took the stage for two encores that focused on earlier releases. The first encore started with a more electronic vibe, hitting with Intimacy‘s synth-led “Signs” and “Ares”, then the crowd hit its peak presence nearly drowning out Okereke on “This Modern Love”. This energetic plateau remained through set conclusion, with the outfit covering Rihanna’s “We Found Love” as an intro to “Flux”, then working into the live debut of “V.A.L.I.S.” and concluding with “Helicopter”, one of the band’s earliest singles.
Spanning 18 tracks, the night truly captured the breadth of Bloc Party’s aesthetic, and while their setlist could use some tinkering, the group’s renewed sense of urgency bludgeons the mind, body, and soul of any fan both new and old.
So He Begins To Lie
Hunting For Witches
Song For Clay
We Are Not Good People
This Modern Love