LIVE: Bloc Party @ The 9:30 Club - 9/17/12

All photos by Joy Asico (joy@chunkyglasses.com, www.asicophoto.com)

One of the great things about Bloc Party is that, in spite of the surprises -- of which there were surprisingly many (read: ribcage-shaking dancehall booming as they took the stage; “Blue Light” singalong; implausibly cool Rihanna rendition segueing into “Flux”; lesser-known keys-heavy number, “One More Chance”) -- you still know what you’re basically in for:

  • Four British dudes will bring some serious rock of one era or another; be it post-punk revival or straight-up hard rock jams, they will be brandishing guitars, beating the s*#$ out of some drums, and getting loud in a really fun way.
  • They’ll let loose that youthful energy and charisma which a decade ago left London with urgency and took the indie rock world by storm, and which even three albums and a short break later, and halfway across the world, still proves active and infectious -- even on a Monday night in a city full of wonks, after their sold-out 9:30 show the night before.
  • Chances are the whole affair will lean pop-friendly. Hopefully any fans made their peace with this long ago, well before our shameless “We Found Love” (yes, in a hopeless place) moment (It’s okay, Kele. We did too). But if they hadn’t, they definitely have by now. Embrace its hooky charm, appreciate the upgrade and segue, and don’t overthink it.
  • ...all of which amounts to one chief assurance: There’s going to be some serious dancing! Unabashed and ecstatic, a decidedly rave-meets-mosh crowd energy gathered front and center transforming into a jumping, bobbing, swaying, flailing, fist-pumping mass of good vibes and mad happy. Worlds unite, y’all. L’shana tova and four on the floor!


Perhaps the best thing about Bloc Party is precisely this case study they’ve made out of showing how all these spheres are compatible, even concentric. Much like the cover art of their latest album, Four (read our review here), that inspired the huge bullseye backdrop, these inarguably competent musicians have made a living essentially breathing: expanding and contracting, building upon and weaving elements of where they’ve been directly into where they’re going. With the many mentions of “the future,” “the past,” and “nostalgia,” it’s an approach they seem very well aware and proud of.  

No doubt, the fans were craziest about the Silent Alarm numbers, which were fabulous and many, even closing out their second encore. But the highlights of their latest Four, it must be noted, stood equally strong. “Truth,” which opened their second and final encore, was particularly standout. Like any band who once ruled handily and now threatens to exist primarily in the rear view, a bit out of focus and fading, Bloc Party could have succumbed to the noise -- the many new voices competing for fan attention, the critical elements pushing to defy and define them -- and yet, they didn’t and don’t. With the strength of their back catalogue, particularly when paired with the promise of their new material, they wisely chose not to shy away from the older material, forcing a feigned redefinition that could disappoint fans, but rather, to represent both sides of their evolution, playing mostly from those two albums, and executing extremely well and convincingly. All the material in between these bookends was just as solid. With a satisfying 19 songs and no truly weak moments, any Bloc Party fan should’ve walked away feeling good, in spite of possibly not hearing a personal favorite.

Perhaps more noteworthy than anything, they also managed to accomplish a feat many of their contemporaries don’t: They seem authentically full of joy to be up there, sharing what they do with us. They’re not only capable of feeling, but they’re capable of capturing and sharing it, surprising and being surprised themselves, as they noted they were by us -- for the DC crowd singing Manchester United’s “Ole’ Ole’ Ole’” for both encores, bringing them back and making them feel at home, for being “so much fun,” as they put it, attributing our taste and intelligence to our amazing museum scene. (Smithsonian shout-out!) Considering I haven’t seen a band and a crowd so mutually visibly jazzed in so long awhile, it’s hard not to sound a little earnest. So be it.