Bloc Party & Plaitum - The Ritz, Manchester 20/06/12
I am currently writing this review on a coach back to Brighton from Manchester that left at midnight. It's now quarter past 7, I've hardly slept and I need a coffee more than Ian Brown needs a mansion.
Last night in Manchester, as a result, is and always will be a blur, but one of vivid and very positive colours.
Opening act Plaitum we've followed for a while on here, dating back to the first track they released, 'Geisha'. One of the areas I've always enjoyed of theirs is their strong sense of space which allows them to produce tracks that open and close on the listener, ranging from the sparse to the claustrophobic in seconds. It's a quality that's emulated live as well, most notably with 'She Speaks Spanish' which switched between a very open and clear dual vocal section to a broken, house-like drum beat within seconds.
Their sound, with their non linear pop sense of song structure and their command of mood through sound is reminiscent of New Order in many places, but with a very distinct modern London not in the drum beats. On top of the music Abi's voice, as shown on the night, is one of a good range and a whole plethora of emotion and character. When she had the chance to move away from her keyboard and sing straight up she proved this with some vigour.
The only criticism for their set would be that it was mixed very flat and too quiet – stood in the audience the drops and spaces didn't reach their full effect and, despite their build ups, didn't hit with the punch they deserved.
Which is the exact opposite of Bloc Party who, from the off, ripped the crowd open with their fantastic noise.
The most remarkable thing I find with Bloc Party is Kele's stage presence and command of attention. On the stage he doesn't do too much more than most front men but somehow has the charisma and presence that grabs the crowd from the first note. The crowd, already rowdy and excited before the band started, sensed this and went crazy.
Their set consisted of some crowd favourites (which the crowd duly sung, louder than Kele at points) and their new stuff. I think it would be pointless to mention how 'Helicopter' went down (I'll give you two guesses...), and how crazy the crowd went for 'Flux' as the last song of the encore and go through their tried and tested set. Instead, the interesting part of the night was seeing how their new album, 4, would sound live and be received.
My first impression of them is that they're full and loud. That shouldn't come as a surprise to Bloc Party fans, but as opposed to their very up front and direct approach before they seem to have matured and tried to compose some songs. Hearing that a band you love have 'matured' can be horrific, but they've matured in the Girls sense, not the Arctic Monkeys sense. There's still the hooks, there's still the pace and the energy, but there's more layers now and more thought. That's not to deride their earlier stuff – 'Helicopter' will always be one of my favourite songs from school, no matter how many times it was abused at Battle Of The Bands – but their newer stuff has a sense of longevity to it.
My favourite of the new ones, which I'm certain someone will be able to tell you the title of, is one where Kele sings in a falsetto, with an exceptionally catchy hook from their guitarist to beat. The song gathers pace and went down beautifully in their set, along with all of the new tracks. It was a fanclub gig, so these fans were always going to give Bloc Party the time and space to do what they wanted to do, but they seemed to enjoy it as well, and enjoy it immensely. Rather than just waiting for the known hits, the crowd learned each song as it was played and by the end of the track were singing along.
Bloc Party are still on tour I believe, and are touring again in October. Go now, learn the songs, buy the album and practice the songs, then go in October and shout the songs back at the band with the biggest fucking smile on your face. Bloc Party are back.