St John at Hackney – December 4th
When Bloc Party last played the capital in 2013, it was Earls Court that played host. The fallout that later ensued and subsequent departures of Matt Tong and Gordon Moakes have been the focus of discussions about the new-look-group since their re-emergence earlier this year. But with the release of forthcoming fifth album HYMNS moving closer and closer, and the band back to playing shows, the details of that fallout can begin to fade in significance. Tonight, in the more infinite confines of St John’s Church, Bloc Party begin to write a new story – the biggest declaration yet of this new chapter.
“We are Bloc Party, from London, England and Portland, Oregon” announces Kele as opener ‘Eden’ subsides – it’s more of a statement than a mere introduction on this occasion, with the figures of Justin Harris and Louise Bartle still looking a tad peculiar alongside Okereke and Lissack. Things soon take a turn toward the familiar however, as the one-two of ‘Hunting For Witches’ and ‘Positive Tension’ cause more than a slight ripple amongst the crowd; the former’s subject matter particularly potent in light of current political situations, whilst the latter’s unholy cry of “So fucking useless” is a colossal unifier for all those within the chapel.
Tonight doesn’t provide all of the answers for Bloc Party fans, but it goes a long way to doing so.
Nowhere could have been better suited for this incarnation of Bloc Party to return given the more spiritual focus of HYMNS. It’s particularly apt as beneath the stained glass windows Kele sings “I used to find my answers in the gospels of St John” on ‘The Good News’. Tonight doesn’t provide all of the answers for Bloc Party fans, but it goes a long way to doing so, and the scattering of new material sheds a broader light on what’s to come. ‘Virtue’ and ‘Different Drugs’ are certainly more representative of this new record, and the soaring climax of the latter manages to hit heights that strike the greatest chord out of the new offerings.
It’s no real mark on Bloc Party that new tracks – particularly the chatter filled ‘Exes’ – don’t always command attention in the same way. Debuting unheard material is no easy bag, and when they’re sat alongside anthems of the stature of ‘Helicopter’, ‘This Modern Love’ and ‘Flux’, it doesn’t make things any easier. “No more fucking about, show us what you got”, orders Kele at one point, but it doubles as an instruction to themselves as they slip in to ‘Song For Clay’ followed instantaneously by ‘Banquet’. It’s these tracks that of course make the biggest of impacts, and whilst much of tonight categorises a band in evolution, it’s an arsenal of tracks that show no sign of losing their edge.
Tonight’s is a set that draws on material from five records, and against the odds Bloc Party succeed in presenting themselves as one band throughout. Each strand of their expanding catalogue is unified by a togetherness on stage that was clearly lacking before Tong and Moakes went their separate ways. It’s plainer than ever with this retrospect, and to see Bloc Party having this much fun on stage is enough to give faith that this is a new record from the right place. It emanates through their performance too, with the new rhythm section fully part of a band that sound tighter than in the final days of the Four tour, even on their biggest and most abrasive numbers. Tonight doesn’t have all of those answers, but it’s a very clear sign that there’s life in Bloc Party yet.
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