Gig Review: Bloc Party at Thebarton Theatre
What’s heavier: a tonne of white confetti or a tonne of iconic songs from Silent Alarm? Answer: the latter. Bloc Party – a 4-piece indie-rock band from England – are the geniuses behind the 2005 hit debut album Silent Alarm. The album managed to achieve worldwide acclaim, winning the 2005 NME award for “Best Album” and “Best Indie Rock Album” at the 2006 PLUG Awards. If that doesn’t show just how loved this record is, over one million copies of Silent Alarm are circulating the world as we speak. The band currently consists of Kele Okereke (vocals, guitar), Russell Lissack (guitar), Justin Harris (bass), and Louise Bartle (drums).
Bloc Party began their Australian tour with a sold out show in little old Adelaide, where we proved that while our population is small we are still capable of filling entire theatres when the occasion calls. The concept behind the band’s Silent Alarm Tour was to give fans a chance to see their debut album played in full for the first time.
The year 2005 was a beautiful time for indie rock. Bands such as The Strokes and The White Stripes set the standard for revitalised rock music and Bloc Party quickly followed. The band produced hits such as Helicopter, Like Eating Glass, and This Modern Love which still remain fan favourites 13 years later.
Haiku Hands opened up the show for Bloc Party in Adelaide with a wholesomely choreographed set filled with funky dance tracks, rapping, and synchronised hip hop moves. The 4-piece girl group from Sydney found their footing through Triple J Unearthed and soon became signed to Spinning Top, a label home to other great Australian acts such as Tame Impala and Pond.
Haiku Hands’ mixture of repetitive lyrics, thumping bass, and aggressive tones inspired crowds as they poured in – some were bopping along while other were just plain confused. Lyrics such as ‘nobody gives a fuck what you look like’ and ‘it’s not about you – shut up!’ provided the audience with a healthy balance of self-love and assertiveness.
Despite the crowds dwindling presence during their set (disappointing but what else do you expect from oldies?), the four women looked like they were having the time of their lives. They seemed unfazed by the audience’s disinterest and were thrilled to just play for themselves and the 5% of the crowd actually engaging with them. I personally thought they were amazing and would love to see them live again.
I had no idea what to expect from Bloc Party. My knowledge of the band prior to coming to their gig was limited to hit songs such as Ratchet and Helicopter, but I knew Silent Alarm as the album most loved by fans and also the oldest in their collection.
The demographic of this show was primarily the middle-aged: the head-nodders, foot-tappers, and finger-pointers we all know and love, also potentially your parents.
The Silent Alarm album cover, consisting of a snowy white ground and sky scattered with distant, bare trees, was projected as back drop to all the songs from the album, along with icy white lights. The lead singer Kele Okereke was also wearing white, reinforcing the fact that this concert is very much based around Silent Alarm.
The band began their 13-song set with Compliments followed by Plans, where it became clear that perhaps they were playing their debut album in reverse order. The end of the album contains some of Bloc Party’s dragged out, lyrically-based songs, while the beginning features bouncier, dance tracks and sing-along anthems, enabling a slow build to a crescendo. Luno introduced the audience to the band’s heavier side with its frantic drums, quick build, and repetition of the lyrics ‘and ya nose is bleedin’’.
Next was So Here We Are – a solemn, bittersweet track featuring chiming guitars and abstract lyrics about love. Looking down at the crowd of people from the balcony, I could notice that nearly every single person knew every word to each of the songs from Silent Alarm. As the night went on, with encouragement from Okereke, the audience got louder and louder, feeding off the band’s energy and vice versa.
Price of Gasoline began with drummer Bartle leading a choir of claps before guitarist Lissack’s off-beat plucking got the crowd moving their feet. This Modern Love was welcomed with flickers of white confetti while Okereke sang their repetitive hit about depression and love. As the singer sang the melancholy lyrics ‘this modern love breaks me, this modern love wastes me,’ everything felt in sync. People reached up into the sky to grab pieces of confetti while belting out every lyric effortlessly. It became the anthem of the night.
Banquet, one of their most well-known songs, and a Transmission classic if you’ve ever been, increased the crowd’s energy furthermore with its feel-good dance beat and classic mid-2000s indie rock guitar strum. My favourite song of the night Positive Tension, namely because it has the lyrics ‘you’re just as boring as everyone else when you tut and you moan and you squeal and you squelch’, is a cheeky, aggressive belter incorporating staggered vocals and heavy, fast-paced guitar and drums.
Getting to the business end of the night, aka the beginning of the album, Helicopter was a strong reminder that this gig is an iconic moment in Bloc Party history and deserves to be cherished. It’s a memorable song from beginning to end, with its dazzling guitar intro to its catchy lyrics including ‘are you hopin’ for a miracle?’
Like Eating Glass became the song that both kick-started the Bloc Party’s success and, in the case of this concert, finished their Silent Alarm set. One of the most emotional songs of the night, both because of its evocative lyrics, and the bittersweet feeling it brought to fans knowing it was the last song they’d hear from the band’s debut album. ‘It’s so cold in this house’ was chanted throughout the venue as concert-goers wiped tears from their eyes and held onto their mates lovingly.
The encore was less demanded by the audience and more expected, with the crowd seeming somewhat satisfied with having heard all that they had come to hear. Five songs finished the night, including Ratchet, which opened with another surge of white confetti.