Review: Bloc Party at O2 Academy Birmingham (NME Awards Tour)

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Bloc Party at the NME Awards Tour in Birmingham

Last night’s NME Awards Tour show in Birmingham marked the last date of the tour which Bloc Party last played in 2005 alongside The Killers, The Futureheads and Kaiser Chiefs.

With none of the shows sold out, it seems neither the NME nor Bloc Party have the same impact they used to. While the former has fallen victim to the steady decline of print media and has become a free mag, the latter suffered from long hiatuses, members leaving and a new solemn direction.

While their latest effort Hymns is a mixed bag, Bloc Party still excel as a live band.

The supporting line up consisting of Grimes MC Bugzy Malone, Jamie T-like Rat Boy and garage rockers Drenge was a bit of an odd choice and probably didn’t help ticket sales. That’s not to say they were bad but none of them seemed to sit right with Bloc Party (or one another, for that matter).

Rat Boy, who barely left puberty, got the party started with their latest single Move which immediately got a mosh pit going consisting of kids half my age whose parents stood by with raised eyebrows. Their mix of hip hop and rock is good fun but it’s essentially what Jamie T did almost 10 years ago.

Drenge’s noisy grunge rock wasn’t quite my cup of tea but they put on a good show and got the crowd in the mood for what was to come.

By the time Bloc Party took the stage the teenagers were gone and the venue had filled up (albeit it wasn’t at full capacity). They launched into the set with The Good News, one of the more upbeat songs from their current album Hymns which was received with appreciation.

It was the oldies though, that ignited the crowd. Mercury saw new member Justin Harris play the sax, which might seem a bit bizarre at first but turned out to be an amazing addition. Song For Clay (Disappear Here) and Banquet set the crowd on fire for good.

With the exception of The Love Within, the mellow new songs provided welcome breathers which saw people grab new drinks or check their phones. And there was arguably little time to breath in this fast paced set. Frontman Kele Okereke was in a splendid mood and ready to get Brum going.

With Kele in a party mood, classic This Modern Love wasn’t played, neither was Two More Years which they did play at Brixton the night before. Instead, raw rock tunes such as Positive Tension, Helicopter and Ratchet dominated “round two”, as Kele aptly named the encore.

While most people already turned to leave, Bloc Party returned to the stage once more and sent Brum off into this Friday night with electronic rave Flux.

Video: Bloc Party – Banquet

Deborah Jacobs

Music blogger by night, SEO by day. Started Indie is not a Genre in 2011, will always prefer live music over recordings and intimate pub gigs over arena shows.

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