thu 07/07/2022

Bloc Party, Barrowland, Glasgow review - falling back on past glories brings a jubilant response | reviews, news & interviews

Bloc Party, Barrowland, Glasgow review - falling back on past glories brings a jubilant response

Bloc Party, Barrowland, Glasgow review - falling back on past glories brings a jubilant response

The indie veterans took time to warm up

Bloc Party had a mixed night in Glasgow

As Bloc Party singer Kele Okereke noted at one point in this gig, his band have now been visiting Glasgow for nearly two decades. Yet few of the shows played in that 18 year span, which have touched upon nearly all of the city’s main music venues, have been as contrasting as this one.

By the night’s end, when the band blasted out a rare outing of their very early single “Little Thoughts”, the audience were a jubilant and sweaty throng, but it was hard work getting there.

Okereke noticed it as well. Clad in a bright multi coloured shirt that possessed more vibrancy than the early part of the performance, he mentioned the crowd being more subdued than he expects from Glasgow, after a fairly tepid reaction to the opening double-header of “Day Drinker” and “You Should Know The Truth”. Both were lifted from last year’s Alpha Games album, and both were skittish indie-pop tunes that felt a little underwhelming.

 "That’s the Glasgow I remember” he declared a few songs later, after the evergreen indie dancefloor filler of “Banquet” was powered through, Louise Bartle’s sharp drums and Russell Lissack’s cutting riff finally infusing the whole crowd with energy, as opposed to just the commendable group regularly bouncing along at the front. Yet that energy was only intermittent. The older “Hunting For Witches” lacked its usual kick, and although “Rough Justice” was helped by thick bass from Justin Harris, the overall effect was still subdued, especially for a Friday night show that was nearly sold out.

Perhaps, after six albums, Bloc Party are suffering from having some fans there to see the old favourites, and only the old favourites, a feeling supported by the amount of chatter that kept kicking in through newer songs. Then again, perhaps their newest material doesn’t sparkle live, somewhat ironic given a decent amount of Alpha Games is the closest to the sound of their early recordings in some time.

That was certainly true of “Day Four”, it’s “I Am The Resurrection”-esque drum beat unable to kick-start a slower, static tune that ensured the gig’s momentum ground to a halt. Again, Okereke sensed it, declaring “here’s something to wake you up” before calling for the calvary, in this case bringing in heavier, more aggressive material. “Traps” was the most impressive pick of the Alpha Games selections, an intense blend of staccato drums, viciously delivered vocals and a barrage of lighting, and also marked the point where the band and audience seemed to get on the same page. The lighting, incidentally, was the one aspect of the night without flaw, offering a varied yet consistently captivating backdrop.

From there on, it was a dash to the finish line, with “The Prayer” and “Ratchet” delivering a club vibe, the amount of dancing increasing as shirtless figures were hoisted onto their pals' shoulders. There was even a bra thrown onstage, which, Okereke drily noted, belonged to someone of sizable proportions.

The encore continued the partying vibe, after a brief respite for the ethereal “Only He Can Heal Me”, with the frantic “Helicopter”, electro-banger “Flux” and the lush pop of “This Modern Love” all delivered with snap, especially through the guitar work of the always excellent Lissack, who with his floppy fringe and torn jeans resembles an eternal student.

There was even a surprising second encore, the lights swiftly dimming again for the aforementioned blast of “Little Thoughts”. It was an enjoyable finale, but only added to the feeling of a gig being saved by harking back to the past rather than through living in the present.

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