Bloc Party @ Commodore Ballroom – September 16th 2016

On Friday evening, with a few fresh faces to their lineup, British indie royalty Bloc Party descended upon the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. The result: an enjoyable yet indistinct evening of music.

Bloc Party is best known for their success in the indie rock/pop heyday of the late 2000’s with releases like Silent Alarm and A Weekend In The City. In the last few years they have experienced the loss of half of their original lineup and seen solo projects from the remaining members met with so-so acclaim. Currently on tour to promote their most recent release, Hymns, and to show off their newest bands members [Louise Bartle and Justin Harris] expectations were definitely high. It’s unfortunate to report back that the magic was nowhere to be found on Friday night.

From a technical perspective, there are few complaints. Frontman Kele Okereke sounded articulate, backed up by a tight and uniform performance from the rest of the band. They played many hits (notably “Helicopter” “Hunting for Witches” and “Mercury”) while sprinkling in some new songs that were met with approval from the crowd. Where the downfall occurred was in the nuance of their performance.

For one thing, none of them seemed terribly enthused to be there. Kele gave the bare minimum of crowd interaction, stating mildly that the Vancouver audience was “too kind, toooo kind” over and over. His banter was quite hollow and at times contrived. Within the band there appeared to be little chemistry as well, with very little interaction to speak of. As Kele held back his vocals on higher notes in his register, it was unclear whether it stemmed from lack of ability or lack of want.

Perhaps a reader should take this opinion with a grain of salt. There did, however, seem to be empirical proof in the totally tepid response from the crowd as the band exited the stage before the encore and then once again as the show ended: it wasn’t crickets, but it certainly wasn’t bringing down the house.

With all of that said, what the audience got was an entertaining evening of dancing set to the music of Bloc Party. Justin Harris’ live saxophone was a great addition to their sound and Louise Bartle’s drumming was crisp and exact. It wasn’t a bad show; it was just vague.

Bloc Party’s music has always been easily identifiable, even amongst an endless sea of indie music. What we received Friday seemed like an identity crisis manifested through live performance. With more time to bind their amalgam of newly acquired talent into the band they once were, perhaps they’ll come out stronger than before.

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