Live Review: Bloc Party @ The Anthem — 9/16/19

Bloc Party @ The Anthem, Washington DC, 09/16/2019
Bloc Party performs at The Anthem on Sept. 16, 2019. (Photos by Paivi Salonen; Words by Mickey McCarter)

Performing with little fanfare to an eager crowd at The Anthem recently, Bloc Party got down to business in a show celebrating the band’s debut studio album, Silent Alarm. Frontman Kele Okereke professionally yet casually got down to the business of laying down a groove that heightened anticipation in the set.

For this silent Alarm tour, Bloc Party rearranged the tracking order of the album to begin the show with some of the relatively quieter and more thoughtful numbers. That said, all Bloc Party songs have a tranquility to them. The opening number “Compliments” was hazy and hypnotic, and later one of the album’s best numbers, “Banquet,” was raucous and urgent — but still orderly and centered. The lyrics of the refrain speak still today of maturity — “Becoming adult/ Turning into my soul/ I wanted to bite not destroy.”

And so Bloc Party tracked through 14 songs from Silent Alarm, including “Little Thoughts,” a song that carried an EP but also released on a special expanded edition of the album. For good measure, the band circled back in an extended encore to the rarely played “Tulips” from the Little Thoughts EP, charming the audience with the sparkling, peaceful selection.

Stream Silent Alarm by Bloc Party on Spotify:

I have to note that this isn’t your older brother’s Bloc Party. The band changed since the release of Silent Alarm, and this was my first time to see the reconfigured quartet. Kele is now joined by Russell Lissack (lead guitar, keyboards), Justin Harris (bass guitar, keyboards, saxophones, backing vocals), and Louise Bartle (drums, percussion). Justin and Louise joined Bloc Party in 2015 rounding out the group with original members Kele and Russell, and this was my first time seeing the revamped band — although they appeared at Echostage in 2016 — and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

On Bloc Party’s very best song, “Helicopter,” Justin gave himself over to the rhythm, his long hair neatly framing his face as his fingers flew over his strings. On drums, Louise was a revelation, riding the stampede of drumbeats like a determined jockey. She brought it home each and every song, and clearly has proved to be a brilliant recruit for Kele. All in all, the quartet owned the music, and they played very well together.

Catch up with Bloc Party on the band’s website, and see them on tour. This show will remind you of how good the band remains today.

Here are some pictures of Bloc Party performing at The Anthem on Sept. 16, 2019. All photos copyright and courtesy of Paivi Salonen.

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