Bloc Party at the Orpheum Theatre on March 28

A review of Bloc Party at the Orpheum Theatre on March 28, 2007

, Staff Writer

Kele Okereke, front man of Bloc party, started off the show at the Orpheum with a song from their new album A Weekend in the City, singing, “I am trying to be heroic / in an age of modernity” from “Song for Clay (Disappear Here).” This grandiose ambition has been compared to a certain Irish lead singer who is fond of protective eyewear. Bloc Party’s live show proved this comparison somewhat fair, as the band performs a bit like U2, if they were still hungry (and if they had a ridiculously talented drummer).

The band wasted no time, immediately ratcheting up the excitement with “Positive Tension” and “Blue Light” from their outstanding debut Silent Alarm. The crowd received the old favorites enthusiastically, but it was during two more new songs that Bloc Party truly hit their stride. By the end of “Hunting for Witches” and “Waiting for the 7:18” the band was at locomotive speed, driven by Matt Tong’s scarily precise and powerful drumming. Much audience dancing ensued.

“Banquet” exposed another U2-esque component of the concert, a well executed light show which reflected the frenetic pace of the song and capitalized on its burst of energy with a combination of scattered colored lights and blinding white bursts. It was followed by the romantic part of the evening, the beautiful lead single “I Still Remember” and the equally beautiful but more expressive “This Modern Love,” both rendered flawlessly by Okereke.

Less noticed, but nonetheless important were the backing vocals of bassist Gordon Moakes, whose deep voice provided the perfect counterpoint for Okereke’s soaring highs. They collaborated well on “The Prayer,” a huge tune that rode lead guitarist Russell Lissack’s heavy fuzzed-out line.

The first half of “Uniform” served as the night’s lone ballad, with Okereke sweetly lamenting the prevalent desire for conformity among teenagers. It didn’t stay sweet for long though, as Tong and company kicked into overdrive for the second half, absolutely blowing the roof off of the theatre. Bloc Party’s ability to harness the power of their sound and release it gradually as a song builds is remarkable. The songs of A Weekend in the City best make use of this talent.

After the encore break, Moakes joined Tong on a second drum set for “Sunday,” although Tong, by this point shirtless, didn’t seem to need much help. For “She’s Hearing Voices” Okereke ditched his guitar and danced in the crowd. An anthemic “Pioneers” and an exultant “Helicopter” rounded out the excellent show.

Bloc Party are arena-ready, but the classical architecture of the Orpheum, with its massive columns, vaulted ceilings, and intricate carvings seemed much more in line with the larger than life but oh-so carefully crafted songs. If the U2 comparisons are justified, (which I think they might be) then witnessing Bloc Party while they are still on the way up was a rare treat.

Getting opening act Albert Hammond Jr. of The Strokes in the deal was a bonus, as he led the night off with songs from his solo debut Yours to Keep. Sounding much like his other band, but with layered harmonies and a much sunnier disposition, Hammond’s highlights included set opener “Everyone Gets A Star,” the syncopated “Holiday,” and the lush “Scared.” Had we never heard of The Strokes, Hammond would most definitely be a star in his own right.

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