Live Review: Bloc Party's 'Silent Alarm' Tour is Far More than Cheap Nostalgia
Ok, I was a bit sceptical heading into Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm Tour stop in Perth. Yes, Silent Alarm is an iconic record that holds a special place in my heart, but certain circumstances are enough to justify some head-scratching. First, there is the random timing of the event; Silent Alarm was released in 2005, so it isn’t like this tour is to celebrate any significant milestones or anything. Also, half of the members that created that masterpiece are no longer part of the band and were not joining the group for this nostalgia-outing. And not just that, said missing pieces (Gordon Moakes and Matt Tong) formed the formidable rhythm section, and so much of the appeal of the album being celebrated are the incredible bass and drum lines. Finally, the group were never able to match the quality of Silent Alarm on subsequent records, and their last couple of attempts were… Not great to say the least. And yet, all of my doubts were quelled the moment the night began.
First things first, Red Hill Auditorium remains one of Perth’s finest live music venues. Yes, it isn’t exactly central, so it is a bit of a trek for those of us that don’t live in the hills. Yet, the beautiful ambience and the natural resonance ensures any event held in the amphitheatre is magical from the get-go. And speaking of being magical from the get-go, opening act Haiku Hands were a winning selection. Sure, they don’t sound all that much like Silent Alarm-era Bloc Party, but their energy and party-starting attitude was still a great scene-setter. The four-member-squad’s live set is complete with co-ordinated dance moves, matching outfits, rap-group swagger and tons of personality. Their brash electronic music could slot alongside Confidence Man, LCD Soundsystem, or Tkay Maidza alike, and was matched by ear-worm hooks custom-built for partying. It’s hard not to get swept up in this kind of music – the type that demands nothing more than a good time.
As for the main event, Bloc Party made the inspired choice of playing Silent Alarm from back to front, so that album-closer ‘Compliments’ kicked proceedings off. Not only does this suit a record that is, admittedly, slightly front-loaded, but it also made things just a tad bit unpredictable for a show that promised songs from one album entirely.
Instantly, I was wrapped up in Kele Okereke’s resonant vocals and captivating stage presence. His magnetism mid-song fell away to charming humility and good humour in breaks. The one truly irreplaceable element of Bloc Party was still there, and that’s what made the evening. Every other member brought their A-game too. Louise Bartle and Justin Harris (on drums and bass, respectively) matched their predecessors perfectly, alleviating any remaining fears. Hearing the introduction to ‘Positive Tension’ live is just one experience from the night I won’t be forgetting any time soon. Finally, Russell Lissack on lead matched his original-member-peer in Okereke, their trademark duelling guitars translating spectacularly to the live setting.
As expected, tracks like ‘Banquet’ and ‘Helicopter’ were met with the biggest cheers from the crowd, the former setting off the first true dance-pit of the night. Silent Alarm is full of lyrics that are just too easy to shout along to: “We’re gonna win this!”, “I’m on fire!”, “We will not be the last!”… These are crowd-winning mantras, and they were very fun indeed. But every track, even the gentler ones like ‘Blue Light’ and personal-favourite ‘So Here We Are’ were also well-received. After the big finale ‘Like Eating Glass’, the band took a short recess, before returning for a six-song encore set of “rare bears” and hits alike. Even songs I’m not big on (*cough* ‘The Love Within’ *cough*) were still fun to dance to, so overall the night was capped off in fine fashion. What a treat it was to hear this group prove just how relevant their debut remains.