Review and Photos – Bloc Party at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, Sept. 16 2016
– review by Taisuke Tanimura, photos by Kirk Chantraine
“I’ve always been adamant I know what’s good for the survival of the band.” That’s what lead singer Kele Okereke of Bloc Party told NME earlier this year, in reference to the departure of founding members Matt Tong and Gordon Moakes.
“People think bands breaking up is sexy but often it’s super mundane, like not flushing the toilet or washing up. It’s often not about the flashpoints but deep-seated issues.” Following the split, Okereke and remaining guitarist Russell Lissack recruited Justin Harris and Louise Bartle to help bring a new incarnation of the much-loved band to life. Anticipation was high for their show at the Commodore Ballroom Friday night, in support of their fifth album Hymns that came out in January.
It was apparent from the get-go that Bloc Party 2.0 were here to have a good time. Taking the stage to the driving beat of “Only He Can Heal Me” from the new album, the band ploughed through the first handful of tunes with gusto. Judging from the stage banter and Okereke’s infectious smiles, you would be hardpressed to believe that this was once a band who sang about racism and politics with deadly earnestness. They are still a serious band – this is Bloc Party after all – but it felt like the new lineup had brought a looser, fun vibe into the mix. Older classics like “Banquet” and “Octopus” felt less urgent and claustrophobic, with just a little more breathing room everywhere. Even “So He Begins To Lie”, a song originally about Tony Blair (but dedicated to Donald Trump this time around), didn’t feel as heavy-handed as it does on 2012’s Four.
Although Okereke was definitely the star of the show, much credit has to go to 21-year-old Bartle, whose superb drumming laid down the heavy grooves atop which everything else rested. Harris and Lissack were integral too, coaxing wild sounds out of their guitars and bass with what I assume is some fancy pedal setups.
Their set drew from all over their discography, with only five out of the 13 songs coming from Hymns. The highlight was “The Love Within”, the new record’s opening track, with which the band closed their set. The entire pit lit up in a frenzy to Bartle’s pounding rhythm and Lissack’s syncopated guitar licks, with several crowd surfers bouncing around with big smiles. They finished up their encore with “Ratchet” which lit up the pit once more.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen so many people on shoulders at a non-festival gig. Bloc Party may have done a lot of growing up recently, but they still know how to get down and have a good time.
New York band and Universal signees Corbu opened.