Bloc Party Packs Them In At The Marquee

Categories: Concert Review

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In their review of Bloc Party's latest record Intimacy, the guys over at Pitchfork went in to a long and arduous comparison between the band and U2. I didn't really see it, until last night's show at The Marquee.

Playing for an impressively packed house - Sunday night shows are risky in Phoenix, which isn't a great live music market for its size anyway - the British indie act's singer Kele Okereke was incredibly charismatic on stage, striking his messianic poses that'd make Mephisto proud while mastering that ambiguous state of reserved candidness that's served Bono so well.

Kele was in the audience throughout the show, at one point making his way to the side stage bar to pour himself a drink, with the mic still in hand. Turns out he's quite the showman, somewhat surprisingly, given what a dud he is in interviews. But that's not the only U2 comparison I saw: Bloc Party, on stage, is four guys with guitars playing fairly standard rock songs, though any slight deviation from that - especially the occasional electronic flourish - is greeted so enthusiastically you'd imagine no one's ever dared do such a thing before. Also like U2, they're undeniably engaging live, even if you're not a huge fan of their records.

Taking stage at 9:15 with a wave to the crowd and a polite "good evening" the band opened with the bitter "One Month Off," a breakup song off Intimacy where Kele assures us he can be as cruel as his former lover. The Party quickly turned back to their older material with the percussion-heavy "Positive Tension" off their breakthrough Silent Alarm. They stayed with the old stuff with "Blue Light" and "Banquet" before playing the pounding Zodiac-inspired anthem  "Mercury," the night's most adventurous offering, with bassist Gordon Moakes looping back Kele's vocals for the refrain while the singer stirred up the crowd.

The crowd was pretty stirred up already, actually. Enthusiastic throughout the show, they waved homemade signs, hoisted up a constant stream of crowd surfers and clapped hard enough to create a noise I'd legitimately call thunderous during the encore break. The band ended up playing two encores, delivering the standouts "Flux" and "Helicopter" along with a few others before the house lights went on.

It was a great show, and it wouldn't be hard to picture these guys in a much bigger venue a few years down the line, though, hopefully, without those awful sunglasses--Martin Cizmar

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Bloc Party at The Marquee in Tempe.

Better Than: An actual block party, unless you live in, like, a really cool neighborhood.

Personal Bias: Long ago, my ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend made her a "mix" that contained like eight Bloc Party songs, along with a few other fillers. Ugh. It's hard not to let something like that bias you, but I'm a professional.

Random Detail: So what drink did Kele fix himself over at the side stage bar? You can't exactly tell from the above photo, but the bartender tells me it was a Ketle One vodka and tonic. Classy.

Further Listening: The dance remix of "Banquet."

By the Way: "To 'get involved' is a famous English expression that means to have fun - if you take anything away from tonight, take that expression."

Photos by Mitchell Tay


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