Arriving at Alexandra Palace last Saturday, the sunset casting sepia hues over the Victorian architecture, I was hit by a barrage of nostalgia. There to see Bloc Party live for the third time in my life, echoes of my seminal experience with them six years ago, and the actual car crash that occurred on the drive back from the gig, came creeping back (though that’s for another article). Furthermore, I was there with one of my oldest friends, both of us fans of the band for over a decade, and upon seeing the past-their-prime crowd we assumed that most others were operating on a similar tenure.
Formed in 1999, the band that finally landed on the name “Bloc Party” broke into the indie rock scene in the early 2000s, with their debut album Silent Alarm receiving the NME Album of the Year and the PLUG Awards’ Indie Album of the Year. Their follow-up ‘A Weekend in the City’ peaked at number 2 in the UK album charts in 2007. The demographic of the crowd clearly pined for these glory days.
I had never been to Ally Pally (as the kids these days are calling it) before, and I was more than pleasantly surprised. Far beyond the standard gig venue, the Palace boasts multiple wings that play host to a variety of outlets. Perhaps ten or more food and drink stands plus a sizeable merch stall filled the central hall, which leads onto the “Great Hall” where the stage stands.
A few pints and a cringingly overconfident support act out the way, the lights dimmed, to much ecstasy from the crowd, and the huge projection of a venus flytrap adorned the stage’s backdrop.
Kicking off the gig with back to back songs from the recently released Alpha Games album, the crowd’s longing for the past became clear - whilst the catchy and rhythmic ‘Day Drinker’ and ‘You Should Know the Truth’ spawned a sea of head bobbing, just the opening notes of the 2007 track ‘Hunting for Witches’ turned the tide into a frenzied mosh.
The negatives of an indoor venue quickly became apparent, and by the end of the third song myself and my bloc compatriots looked as if we’d all just stepped out of the shower. The “old songs good, new songs okay” motif continued throughout the set, and the band were well aware of it from the beginning. The Alpha Games track ‘Rough Justice’ was even announced by lead singer Kele Okereke as a “breather”, so the crowd could cool off before the ecstasising ‘Waiting for the 7.18’ came on afterwards.
I would be hard pressed to write a better set list for the band than what they played that night. A perfect mix of melodic tracks that true fans could sing along to, combined with regular head-bangers which turned the crowd up to 11 and left you short of breath after a three minute mosh.
The encore was more than anyone in the audience could have bargained for – five classics and perhaps the catchiest track off the new album crescendoed with their very first hit, ‘She’s Hearing Voices’, aired in 2004 before their debut album. Seventeen years after their debut album hit the charts, it is hard to overstate how good Bloc Party still are.