Hailed by critics and adored by fans, London’s very own Bloc Party hardly needs an introduction. With articles in Spin, Filter, and a FADER Magazine cover (to name a few), their unique blend of seizure-induced dance rock has managed to capture the attention of all the right people. Since the release of their first EP in February of 2004 the group has garnered considerable exposure, coincidentally transforming the members into the poster children of 2005’s indie rock elite. The band's hasty rise in popularity is comparable to what the Yeah Yeah Yeahs accomplished in the span between their self titled EP and Fever To Tell. Not often is a band proficient enough to convince the world of their full potential with just three tracks, however this is the unusually rare case involving Bloc Party. But with the recent release of their debut full-length, Silent Alarm, the band now faces the challenge of living up to great expectations. Proving that they are capable of advancing to the next level, Bloc Party must now bring the hype to life in a wave of blood, sweat, and tears shed under the hot lights of an open stage. It is in the experience of a live performance that a real rock band solidifies their place and proves all opposing rumors to be true or false. Although Bloc Party has performed numerous live shows since their conception, they now must compete with a growing reputation, one that precedes their various American tour dates.
I pondered the bands critical acclaim while sandwiched between a metal guardrail and an unruly crowd during last nights sold out performance in Chicago. I had fallen for Bloc Party after having been so unbelievably entertained by the bands "Banquet" music video several months ago. The crowd was eager for action and a strange level of aggression became apparent as I gently shoved my way to the front. A half hour in the mirror playing dress up had cost me a chance to see opening band Pitter Patter, but with a little luck I had made it to the front in time to hear Chicago's very own The Ponys finish the last of their set. An extremely talented band, I was glad that they got a chance to open up for such a high profile act and perform for a full house. As soon as The Ponys had finished, a wave of people pushed forward in anticipation of Bloc Party. But this sweaty tsunami of human flesh created a major backlash when those patiently waiting in front began to violently resist the encroachment of new comers flooding the spaces closest to the stage. The end result was slew of childish name-calling and a brief fist-fight that cost two feuding audience members their chance to see anything except the door thanks to security. Despite the awkward vibe caused by the commotion between sets, I found that the majority of those attending were pleasant and the general consensus was that this evening was history in the making.
When the time was right, Kele casually lead the band members out on to stage and with a wide smile greeted the crowd in proper English fashion. I joked with a young girl standing next to me about how long the band would play, she said forty-five and I said they didn’t have enough material to stay on stage any longer than half an hour. I was wrong, because the band must have played for nearly an hour, and truthfully it was as good as anyone had ever said it would be. I was worried when, by the second song, they had jumped into their power singles, and I wasn’t sure what they were saving as a firecracker to rally the crowd into a finale. After a half hour of grinding my narrow ass against whoever was behind me, I never had the courage to turn around, the band thanked the crowd and ran off stage. The lights went dim, and the crowd jumped into upheaval demanding for more by stopping the floor and clapping their hands in the air. Within a few minutes the band returned to add another fifteen or twenty minutes onto the set and ended the night with my second favorite track on Silent Alarm, "Staying Fat".
The Highlights of the performance included a series of random observations I made while furiously dancing to just about every song. It was great to look around and notice that I wasn’t the only one sweating like Richard Simmons in the '80s. I especially enjoyed bassist Gordon Moakes pink Death From Above 1979 t-shirt, which was so cool it left me feeling slightly resentful toward him. I did however appreciate Moakes skill with his instrument. Moakes’s finger technique, which avoided the use of a pick, provided a deep disco/funk bass line that countered the frantic punk rock guitars. My girlfriend was stoked when drummer Matt Tong flattered everyone by taking off his shirt, revealing a thin gold chain that looked like it belonged around the neck of a Martin Scorsese character. Overall, it seemed like the success of their music had yet to sink in for Bloc Party. The genuine smiles and playful taunting felt so childishly naive, it rid the band of the type of jaded behavior common in musicians who have had their fair share of the record industry. It was as though Bloc Party was simply on board for the ride, and the threat of having to produce a following album has yet to materialize. Regardless, last night ranks with one of the best shows I’ve seen in my life and the music that Bloc Party is writing is of a caliber that few respectable critics could dispute.