Bloc Party singer/guitarist Kele Okereke rocks the Bad Brains T-shirt at Terminal 5.
“I see what we’re dealing with here,” Bloc Party singer/guitarist Kele Okereke said between songs last night, midway through the second of a sold-out three-night run at Terminal 5. Live, the British neo-post-punk outfit doubled down on the intensity of their already-intense catalogue, their songs giving off a muscular sheen, thrilling the crowd.
After a period of dormancy, Bloc Party is returning with its fourth album, the appropriately titled Four, due out Aug. 21 on French Kiss Records. Speaking with NonStop Sound in a video interview earlier that day, Okereke expressed a desire to imbue the record with a sense of cohesion. The idea was to capture the sound of four people in a room together, just playing music. The record succeeds at this, and the mix is enjoyably chaotic, combining the band’s characteristic hookiness with a live feel often lacking in their previous records, which had featured heavy overdubs and layered mixes.
Silent Alarm, Bloc Party’s first record, remains one of the triumphs of 2000s guitar rock, and Bloc Party’s set leaned heavily upon that material. Highlights included the house-leaning “One More Chance,” the beyond-heavy Four opener “So He Begins To Lie,” apexing with “Banquet,” their breakthrough single and still perhaps their best-known song. The show, which was also broadcast on YouTube, proved that Okereke remains one of rock’s great smirkers, sounding perhaps even better onstage than he does on record. He didn’t hit a bum note all night, and the tightness of the band’s playing matched Okereke’s. Drummer Matt Tong played with the rigidity of a drum machine, hitting the skins shirtless and showing off by playing his bass drum while standing at one point.
Bloc Party’s success is often attributed to the intelligence and emotion of Okereke’s lyrics and the strength of his voice, as well as Tong’s incredulous proficiency, but this overlooks the abilities of bassist Gordon Moakes and guitarist Russell Lissack. Moakes showcased his capability for multi-instrumentation on “One More Chance,” and his intentionally flat backing vocals provided winning counterpoint to Okereke’s full-throated yelp. Lissack’s guitar lines are trenchant, sounding something like Johnny Marr’s work with The Smiths, but beefed-up and shot out of a cannon. Such was the startling strength of Bloc Party when it made its debut -- the band took the template established by big-sounding bands such as The Smiths, Joy Division and U2, but filtered it through the harder edge of bands like Gang of Four and Bad Brains -- whose T-shirt Okereke sported onstage.
Now is a dark time in America for rock music. The Black Keys are the closest thing there is to a critically acclaimed, well-selling group here, but they haven’t put out a truly good album since 2004. The Kings of Leon have broken up. After a yelp of relevancy, The Strokes have faded back into the ether. Jane’s Addiction is a certifiable mess. Bloc Party’s show last night, however, was a beacon of hope that our alt-rock days will not be dark forever.