Bloc Party perform at the 9:30 Club

English post-punk revivalists Bloc Party bring their tour to the 9:30 Club in Washington DC.

WASHINGTON, September 28, 2012 – With all the attention-grabbing bands doing “reunion” tours these days, an off-the-road hiatus of four years or doesn’t seem like a big deal. For a band like Bloc Party that didn’t suffer a dramatic personnel implosion the way so many other popular bands do, their recent absence from live touring simply felt like the band members had wandered off, going their separate ways to do other things. There was enough reason to believe they would come back together some day, but you never know. If one or more band members achieved success elsewhere, the original band’s reunion might never happen.

When Bloc Party finally did come back, there wasn’t too much fanfare. They decided to forego playing the songs from Four live before the album was released. This sort of thing has more or less become the band’s M.O. over the years though, and it’s unfortunate in a way. For such a popular band, they end up creating very little buzz outside of their music, whether it’s recorded or live.

Yet this is exactly the kind of understated appeal Bloc Party brought to their recent show at the 9:30 Club, the first of two sold out performances. Bands often talk about playing just for the music – and by extension the people/fans who consume said music. But it’s easy to see that if anyone in Bloc Party ever made a similar comment, they’d have infinitely more credibility.

Once the band reached the stage on that first night, they appeared with minimal production values. They used a basic lighting set up, but nothing extraordinary or over the top. It was just enough to keep the audience’s attention squarely focused on the band and little else, keeping the spotlight squarely on the four piece group playing in front of their fans, with limited pretension and zero special effects to back them up. The kind of minimalist attitude they bring to the stage and to their music in general makes one wonder how they can sell out two shows back to back at the 9:30 Club.

Bloc Party’s style is best described as Post-Punk-meets-guitar-driven-Britpop, and they don’t stray too far from that formula during their live show. They’ve experimented with some electronic influences, true. But then, so did a lot of the bands they draw inspiration from, and they never stray far from what generally works. That’s not to say they’re aping the sounds of other bands. It’s more that Bloc Party is a natural progression from the various bands they cite as influences.

When Bloc Party first hit with their single “Banquet,” they were almost instantly lumped together with a bunch of bands that were pushing Synth-Pop ‘80s revival, which didn’t really reflect Bloc Party’s distinctly Post-Punk style. Yes, their sound was similar enough so that the connection made sense at the time. But in the end, interestingly enough, it did make them seem a bit more authentic than their contemporaries, who have for the most part have faded from the scene.

Bloc Party’s guitar-driven sound is positively huge in a live performance. No matter what, they keep the pace going at a brisk clip, keeping the audience in a constant state of motion. Slower moments never felt as if the band has lost its momentum. Instead, it has the effect of building anticipation in the audience, which become eager for the moment when they kick things into high gear again. Still, there’s no real flash or pop expected with a band that gets its fans into a frenzied state like Bloc Party does. This speaks volumes for the strength of their songwriting and the fans’ appreciation of  their style as well.

Bloc Party doesn’t have any noticeable, gimmicky hooks weighing down their sound. Even their choruses aren’t especially memorable in the sense they don’t unnecessarily repeat a catchy string of words just to do it. The band simply presents smart and intimate music, enthusiastically performed on a grand stage, and their happy audiences couldn’t react more positively to the sound and spirit they’re putting out.

The crowd at the 9:30 Club for the most part has matured along with Bloc Party, which probably accounts for the strength of their reaction to this music. These songs mean more to them than a surface-clever pop song tossed out by a band that will soon disappear from the scene. Bloc Party is simply the type of band that knows what they do well and how that translates to their growing and enthusiastic fan base. They’re actually the type of band who should never take four years off between their live tours.


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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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