Bloc Party’s late 2015 and early 2016 UK tours have marked their first live performances since touring mediocrely received fourth album Four in 2013. It might be suggested that their latest tour marks a new lease of life for the London band who first hit the scene 11 years ago in 2005 with their critically acclaimed debut Silent Alarm.
The band are currently serving as headliners on the NME Awards Tour 2016, alongside fellow performers Drenge, Rat Boy and Bugzy Malone. Their Leeds Academy show on Monday 8th February was one of a culmination of shows on a tour that has seen them play a plethora of gigs across the country.
The crowd seemed genuinely pumped to see Bloc Party play live again
It’s safe to say, however, that the band were facing a wall of doubting critics prior to their commencement of the tour. They have recently released fifth studio album Hymns to mixed reviews, some stating that the religious imagery employed on the album is somewhat excessive, with others feeling that the band’s new, more electronic feel is a successful transition. But even the band’s most vigorous supporters have been unsure as to whether the new sound will translate successfully into live performance.
Well, the answer, based on this gig, is still pretty uncertain.
The crowd seemed genuinely pumped to see Bloc Party play live again; a band whose unofficial hiatus has seen an undetermined break from music. There was a definite excitable atmosphere within the spectators at the gig (even if it has to be said that the attendance barely scraped the capacity of the venue).
The newly changed four-piece (with brand new bass guitarist and drummer) opened with new tune ‘Only He Can Heal Me’, and received a pleasing response from the crowd. The electronic elements of the song proved successful, as swathes throughout the crowd popped and shuffled along to a much more dance-influenced Bloc Party song than hardcore fans would be used to. Although the densely religious lyrics had little effect.
What followed, however, was an unusually old-time-hit-packed set for a band that have recently released a brand new album. And this may be attributed to one of two things: maybe, with this being a tour where the band had to share the limelight with three other acts, they wanted to throw out as many crowd-pleasers as possible. Or maybe they feel their new material can’t stand up on its own merit.
The new songs that they did play, as sparse as they were, such as ‘The Love Within’ and ‘Into the Earth’, still seemed to be met with positive reception. Although none of them were greeted with as much euphoria as some of the band’s older classics, the pinnacle of which in the main set was ‘Banquet’ at the midway point, after which they preceded to rattle through a collection of well-received efforts from their back-catalogue like ‘Mercury’ and ‘Octopus’.
Undoubtedly, though, the zenith of an enjoyable gig and return to the live scene for Bloc Party was their hit-packed encore. Their final three songs provoked a mass singalong (‘This Modern Love’) and a balls-to-the-wall moshpit of the highest calibre (‘Helicopter’).
Most impressive though was their closing track, ‘Ratchet’, from their previous album. The song incited a mass sing/dancealong; Bloc Party at their best showing that after 11 years in the industry they are still capable of delivering a knockout live performance – even if their set was littered with the odd lull.