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BLOC PARTY @ Red Hill Auditorium gets 8/10


Bloc Party play Silent Alarm @ Red Hill Auditorium

w/ Haiku Hands
Saturday, November 24, 2018

8/10

Silent Alarm is one of the greatest albums released this century. Perhaps because of some indifferent output since this 2005 debut, people tend to forget that, so Saturday’s Bloc Party show wasn’t a sell out. But the prospect of hearing the noughties’ best example of angular post punk revival (and there were plenty to choose from), played front to back with one of best four-track opening streaks ever laid to tape, was promising.

Of course Bloc Party, and particularly frontman Kele Okereke, have always been too subversive to just play by the rules like that.

Haiku Hands

The night got off to a mixed start when the bar had sold out of nearly all beer just after 7.30pm, two songs into the support act Haiku Hands‘ set. It didn’t diminish the four women dancing with synchronised abandon on stage however – nor did the karaoke vibes of no musicians (and an unmanned DJ booth) – their energy was simply that irresistible.

The Sydney-via-Melbourne outfit already have enough hype behind them to be part of WA’s own Spinning Top roster (Tame Impala, Pond), despite less than a handful of singles to their name. An amalgam of unique electro-pop acts such as M.I.A., Peaches and The Ting Tings, it meant that their art-pop faves including the excellent Not About You sat next to newer, soon-to-be-hits like one we’ll call Man Bitch (“You can be my man bitch… I’ll manhandle your man handle”), with enough spunk to win the crowd over in just 30 minutes.

Haiku Hands

Before Bloc Party had begun, even the red wine and giant, overpriced Sapporo cans had sold out, leaving us wondering what exactly Red Hill were thinking, as staff looked visibly flustered. But bar anxiety aside, it was an atmospheric start as the headliners opened – perhaps unexpectedly – with Compliments. For this writer it was one of the most anticipated songs of the night, an underrated album closer that’s closer to The Cure than anything Bloc Party have released before or since. Followed by another slow burner in Plans, it was at least obvious what they were doing – playing Silent Alarm in reverse. It was a sensible move perhaps, but, was it a little gutless to not come out guns blazing and trust you could hold the crowd’s attention till the end of your best record?

Bloc Party

Given the post punk that Bloc Party fans love shares more in common with Gang of Four than Robert Smith, it wasn’t until third track Luno that the masses got on it and we had the sense things might get off the hook after all. So Here We Are featured Okereke and fellow-guitarist Russell Lissack’s glistening interplay at its magnificent best, while Price of Gasoline had an array of one liners that fans threw back and forth at one another with glee.

Bloc Party

The balance of moving moments (This Modern Love, Blue Light) against the truly raucous (She’s Hearing Voices) was paying dividends even before Okereke announced, “oh shit, things about to get crayyyy…” and the band launched into Banquet. It meant that perfect opening quartet of songs would be heard in succession after all, just in reverse. To say the next 15 minutes went off would be a mighty understatement, with album opener and main set finale Like Eating Glass the pick of the bunch.

Bloc Party

All’s well that end’s well, clearly. But not quite, because the encore left many wanting. It was admirable in some ways that Bloc Party looked back to B-sides and EP tracks mostly predating Silent Alarm, such as Tulips, The Marshals Are Dead (which admittedly rocked) and Little Thoughts, but it was largely lost on the masses until The Prayer came roaring through and suddenly everyone felt “unstoppable” again. This sort of thing has been done better by artists like Peter Hook, who open their sets with B-Sides rather than bringing the mood down in the encore – alternatively Bloc Party could have played Two More Years, always a crowd pleaser and often featured on extended editions of Silent Alarm. But with a closing trifecta of The Prayer, more recent hit The Love Within and live staple Flux, all was soon forgiven and limbs reverted to flailing.

It was the sort of gig that you throw your arms around your friends and shout along to, eyeball to eyeball, then reminisce about the whole thing because you were right at the time and you still are now: Silent Alarm is a truly, truly great record, and on their day Bloc Party are still an inspiring live band.

HARVEY RAE

Photos by Owen Gregory

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