Bloc Party @ Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow, 9 Aug

Only two Bloc Party members remain from the all-conquering line-up that released Silent Alarm in 2005, but this anniversary performance shows it ages well regardless

Live Review by Jonathan Rimmer | 12 Aug 2019
  • Bloc Party live at Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow, 9 Aug

Of all the bands to be crowned flavour of the month by the NME in the early-to-mid 2000s, Bloc Party initially seemed the most likely to have longevity. Sure, they drew from the same pool of 80s influences as their faceless (and numerous) post-punk peers, but debut album Silent Alarm stood out for its off-kilter dynamics and monstrous rhythm section as much as jagged guitar lines or Kele Okereke’s vaunted staccato vocals.

Okereke, in particular, clearly learned from the torturous demise of the likes of Razorlight and The Kooks, hamstrung by the limitations of the style, and he desperately tried to reorient Bloc Party into a more dance-inspired outfit over the course of the decade. The results have been patchy to say the least.

Nevertheless, it was still surprising when they announced an anniversary tour of their debut to be played in full. Five years ago, Okereke said he “cringed” at such “cynical” retrospectives. This came a year after drummer Matt Tong left, and a year before bassist Gordon Moakes followed suit, seemingly closing the door on such a prospect indefinitely.

Image: Bloc Party live at Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow, 9 Aug by Paul Storr

Whatever inspired the U-turn, tonight’s packed-out Kelvingrove audience are grateful, providing a rapturous reception at kick off. They’re made to wait a bit for fireworks as the four-piece elect to reverse the tracklisting, opening with the sombre Compliments. It means the show has an odd feel to it, at least at first: just a handful of revellers start to pipe up during the chorus of the pulverising Luno, with Okereke repeatedly bellowing "I can’t hear you" in panto fashion.

The gamble pays off dramatically, though, serving to remind that Silent Alarm has one of the best seven-to-eight-song sequences of any album you’ll hear. Confetti is launched as the place erupts for This Modern Love, probably the best showcase of Okereke’s wistful lyrical style. Drummer Louise Bartle, barely a teenager when the album was first released, also begins to really show her mettle, blasting through fan favourites Positive Tension and Banquet with precision.

As Like Eating Glass comes to its euphoric conclusion, the long-expected wet weather finally descends. Job done, the band launch into Two More Years, Hunting for Witches and Flux, three early post-album singles that fit naturally, and Ratchet, a late era hip-hop-esque single that doesn’t.

The jury is out on whether this incarnation of Bloc Party still has legs. Okereke, a natural experimentalist, is unlikely to recreate the dynamics that made their debut so special, railing against the boredom and apathy he felt characterised that era. Regardless, Silent Alarm still bubbles with kinetic energy and sounds just as exciting 15 years on – tonight, at least, that’s all that matters.