Bloc Party Live, Portsmouth Guildhall Monday 10 October 2005
“Today is a very important day, in the days of the Bloc!” exclaims singer Kele Okereke, introducing Bloc Party’s understated yet majestic new single 'Two More Years', released earlier in the day. There is something knowingly triumphant about his tone, well-deserved after a remarkable year for the four-piece who Liam Gallagher famously dismissed as looking like “a band off University Challenge”. Widespread praise garnered on debut LP 'Silent Alarm' led to a Mercury nomination, and recent performances have showcased a band coming into their own in the live arena.
Portsmouth’s student hordes seemed far more intent on loading up at the bar than offering much appreciation to the support act, whose already rather thankless task was not helped by the female singer’s one-syllable shrieking, and half-hearted attempts at crowd participation.
The crowd began to swell as the lights dimmed and Bloc Party took to the stage. Drummer Matt Tong’s cascading drum intro to 'Like Eating Glass' kicked in and the crowd were on-side immediately, familiar with all of 'Silent Alarm's plentiful highlights and erupting with contagious energy at regular intervals. A cleverly disguised opening to 'Banquet' kept fans on their toes, before the band gave in and unleashed the song‘s muscular guitar line.
The hot, stuffy atmosphere led Okereke to note that they were being made to “work for the money tonight“. Tong flung off his shirt, while guitarists Russell Lissack and Gordon Moakes quietly smouldered, perhaps literally given the venue’s stifling heat. Slow burning highlight 'This Modern Love' received a rapturous response, before 'Little Thoughts' and 'Helicopter' whipped the crowd into a frenzy of manic energy.
The band also plugged the remixed version of their debut by playing an extended version of 'So Here We Are', before 'Tulips' was introduced as “the one we played really badly last time we were here.” Such a happening was very unlikely tonight in what was a very polished and assured performance, but there was to be one spoke in the wheel as the band played out with 'Pioneers'.
Moakes and Lissack looked daggers at the few crowd surfers who made it to the stage, and the sound was cut momentarily by one such offender, and they had to start from scratch. In response Okereke called him a “nincompoop”, which is quite possibly the first time the word has ever been used by a rock star. It was a strangely comical ending to an accomplished set by a thrilling, though rarely humorous band.