Words by P. Elizabeth Cawein
Phots by Amy Davidson
As I headed down 56th toward Terminal Five, the massive crowd I saw teeming outside the entrance was no shock — I knew the show had been sold out for weeks and I was definitely feeling the appropriate level of thankfulness for my job, which allowed me to walk right into the Bloc Party/Longwave show, navigate the sea of people and find an open seat on the mezzanine.
Brooklyn indie rockers Longwave just released their fourth album Secrets Are Sinister in late 2008, and though they’ve been out of the scene for about three years, you’d never really know it.
Longwave’s is nothing if not a thick sound. In fact, their set seemed to principally be about sound, a wall of sound, actually (with apologies to Phil Spector), an expansive, driving force that made the vocal all more ethereal in comparison. The contrast was stark, and just right.
There was a young lady in the front row who definitely agreed, and actually seemed to be involved in some sort of religious experience, exorcism or otherwise. She was enjoying the show enough for everyone in at least the next three rows. Besides fan-girl, even those in the crowd who weren’t there to see Longwave were still really tuning in to what they were doing. Regardless of their New York fanbase, at a gig like this, they’d definitely be playing to the right type of crowd. Not that I would go so far as to compare Longwave to Bloc Party, or even to pool their influences, but it was a sound charged with a lot of the same energy, packed with those same driving, addictive rhythms and bright guitar melodies.
Before Bloc Party hit the stage, I had been worried that their set was going to be dominated by tracks from their most recent LP, Intimacy. It wouldn’t have been a bad thing, necessarily, because I definitely gave the album high marks. It’s just that Intimacy hasn’t had quite enough time in my record collection yet to really become part of me the way Weekend In The City and Silent Alarm both have.
Turns out though, I had nothing to worry about — they opened with “One Month Off” from Intimacy, but the rest of the set was dominated by WIC. And the response from the crowd was deafeningly audible. The second song of the night was “Hunting For Witches,” and after the screaming stopped, the moshing started — I said a silent thank you to the Gods of the All Access Pass that allowed me a birds’ eye seat to the chick getting dropped on her head while crowd surfing over the mosh pit, as opposed to being that chick who got dropped in the mosh pit.
They also pulled out “Positive Tension” from Silent Alarm and “Waiting For The 7:18″ from WIC. But it was on “Song For Clay” that they really demonstrated what it is that makes Bloc Party a band you want to see live. Lead singer Kele Okereke drew out the opening verses, milking every phrase, twisting and bending the pitches, holding the notes so long that when the transition from the intro to the verse finally arrived, it was like a bomb dropping. The crowd exploded, the stage opened up and there was no turning back.
The next appearance from WIC was “Where is Home” immediately followed by the debut single from Intimacy, “Mercury.” It butted up against a string of the band’s older tracks, and the immediate combination made it easy to hear the difference, the gradual evolution but also the conscious stylistic changes, between the albums. And of course, “Mercury” allows Okereke to be removed from the shackles of his guitar — he made a playground of the stage. He’s definitely a born performer, charming the crowd several times with no more than “How are we feeling, New York City?”
For the encore, they brought out the track that surely almost all of us had been waiting for — “The Prayer” — and ended the night with “Helicopter.” It seems only appropriate to sing to the New York crowd, “Stop being so American.”