Bloc Party: United Palace Theater, New York, NY 3/30/07

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Bloc Party, the U.K. band currently touring the U.S. in support of their latest album A Weekend in the City, are known for giving live performances that possess the fury of The Clash or The Buzzcocks in their prime. Those who were fortunate enough to see their performance at McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn last summer know that Bloc Party are strong performers who play to their strengths by churning out hard charging, disco thumping, anthem-punk that works over a crowd with frenzied delight. Unlike their peers, Bloc Party have rejected the virtues of lo-fi chic in favor of glossy glamorama that is one part early new wave, and another part The O.C.

The downside to this fabulous formula is that given the opportunity, people arrive at certain destinations with the intent of being seen, as opposed to seeing something. Such was the case at Bloc Party’s first of two performances at the United Palace Theater in New York City. Despite the fact that the rabid fans in the first ten rows leaped and cheered in unison all throughout the fifteen song set, the rest in attendance seemed to have not noticed that they were actually at a concert. By time the band launched into
“Banquet,” the pulsating track from their previous album, Silent Alarm, it became quite clear that for all of Bloc Party’s stunning efforts, it was just another Friday night in New York to the sold out crowd.

Songs like “The Prayer,” the first single from A Weekend in the City, pounded with menacing fervor, and if the crowd was willing, the thrust of “She’s Hearing Voices” could have resulted in pandemonium in the aisles. But at a certain point, vocalist Kele Okereke’s modesty must have gotten the best of him, because he half-joked that the band was “finally getting used to this room,” as if to coyly insinuate that the United Palace Theater – an immaculate and elegant structure that also serves as a church and  community center – was somehow too daunting of a presence for those in attendance.

In spite of all this, Okereke and company soldiered on valiantly. “Helicopter,” the last song of the night, crashed through the gates with a thunderous backbeat from drummer Matt Tong, and Okereke marched about the stage with authority – almost daring
the crowd to remain unflinching – as he belted out the refrain, “Are you hoping for a miracle?” As the state of alternative music remains in flux, Bloc Party has managed to remain consistent with their dedication and intensity. It’s just unfortunate that too many
bands and fans alike do not hold themselves to the same standards.

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