it's the fans that make or break bands

Bloc Party – Southampton Guildhall

Southampton Guildhal
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8.0 10 Great

Autumn in Southampton is finally beginning to rear its head, with torrential downpours soaking the bloc partiers as they await their quarry. Damp in body they may be, but not in spirit.

Bloc Party are back, and they mean business. In a hit strewn career spanning set they roar into life in front of an overly intoxicated (for a Wednesday night) audience. Opening with the angular riffs of ‘So He Begins To Lie’ from recent arrival ‘4’, the nods of appreciation are apparent. Despite this and (perhaps) unfairly so, many more recent off cuts from their arsenal fail to register past relative ‘toe-tappers’ in the eyes of the Southampton crowd.

It takes the cut ‘n’ paste bombast of ‘Mercury’ to inject some life into proceedings, with widespread ‘dad dancing’ (a fair number of this crowd appear to be fans prior to ‘Banquet’ being a twinkle in the bands’ collective eye) and the first of the night’s mosh-pits springing into life. Kele begins his friendly goading of the crowd which continues long past ‘Hunting For Witches’, in which widespread mania finally erupts. The burlier members in attendance continue to make their presence known, amongst the collective sing-along in the semi-darkness of strobe lighting flashes.

They don’t just shut up and play the hits though, with choice cuts from ‘4’ also being debuted in the south tonight. ‘Kettling’ sounds beefy with its thrashing guitars, like punk re-imagined for the 21st century. It’s fitting, being that its chief subject matter tackles the taboo of last year’s London riots, finally bringing them into the mainstream. Kele describes it best, “this one’s for the boys who want to push each other around”. Whether a political comment or a sleight reference to the drunken antics below, the beer boys need no encouragement as the mosh-pit swells to encompass the width of the venue (somewhat ironically) between the two bars. ‘Coliseum’ throws a curve ball in an Americana style folk bash, before stomping into a pulsating rhythm that wouldn’t sound out of place sound-tracking the fights of gladiators. Far from growing soft with age, Bloc Party has returned harder than ever – it’s a sentiment relished by their fans if the flailing limbs are a good indicator.

Despite this, there is a glaring disappointment at the lack of old favorites on display tonight. This isn’t surprising, after four albums it isn’t likely that every ‘good’ song gets an airing every night. It would have been nice to see the rapidity of ‘One Month Off’ sparking intensity in the crowd to match that of the band, which was on several occasions (during newer songs) alone in its enthusiasm. By the second encore and the stuttering funk of ‘Octopus’, it is painfully apparent that in the comfort the band find in each other onstage they are unfazed by reciprocal movement (even if they do get a bit of a sing song in the ‘woo’ departments). It is such that the calling card of ‘4’ falls a bit flat, and the gig threatens to end on a dud note.

Helicopter’ removes any such doubts. What has become Bloc Party’s signature song electrifies the sweat sodden crowd with its amphetamine frenzy of guitar licks and obnoxious vocals, giving the drunken parade of fists and elbows another chance to prove their worth in the mosh-pit. The band exit stage, over an hour and a half after originally taking to it, to an ovation from a crowd who know the only likely chance of seeing them in Southampton again soon is if you happen to be the owner of the shoe Kele gave to a stage hand for safe keeping after it was tossed on stage.

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