Webster Hall, New York, 14 June 2005
On their second visit this year to the City That Never Sleeps Bloc Party pulled out their trump cards to prove why the media have been raving about them. Their live sets pack a spontaneous zip that rarely gives the crowd a chance to marvel at particular songs, while this performance was slightly hampered it still had enough bite to be enjoyable.
The CLUAS Verdict? 6.5 out of 10
Full review: They do things differently in New York. There are no touts outside venues selling overpriced tickets, doormen are insistent on i.d. (no matter what age or gender you are) and the venues don't serve pints. So turning up to a gig in New York without a ticket, American driver's licence and thirst for a few pints is definitely the wrong way to go. Fortunately enough though, it only took little over an hour for a kind couple to offload their tickets at selling price and the doorman to figure out an Irish passport.
Once inside, New York based Automato were halfway through their set. Their fusion of hip-hop with indie rock is mildly entertaining (kind of like Jay Z meets Talking Heads) but it's their front man Alex Frankel who maintained a lively flow to their performance. The early crowd didn't exactly warm to them but the band certainly tried effortlessly to win them over.
One of the main problems with gigs is the hit-or-miss factor with support acts. A headline act (or at least their record company) wants a band that is similar enough without being as good to open the proceedings. Sometimes the support bands can be excellent (a hit) while at other times they can turn your stomach in disgust (a miss). The Engineers are the latter. They are the type of band who tries too hard to be different on a lot of their songs and never quite reach any interesting climax.
Webster Hall is a lot like the Ambassador in Dublin, except its acoustics are much worse. The two support acts struggled with the poor sound and most people could've predicted that it was going to restrict Bloc Party's performance in some way. And that it did with 'Blue Light' and 'So We Are' sounding like muffled versions of the originals. But Bloc Party have been touring non stop now throughout 2005 and they must have come across poor sound systems on previous occasions, so they now know how to deal with it - play louder and harder. 'Banquet' shook the walls while 'Like Eating Glass' was greeted with riotous heckles of delight.
Lead singer Kele briefly spoke to the crowd but it was the music that the people were more interested in. Matt Tong's drumming was on top form and both guitarists (Russell Lissack and Gordon Moakes) were impressive while Kele Okereke's vocals differed from dismissible to boisterous. 'Pioneers' and 'She's Hearing Voices' aroused the sell out crowd but there was a feeling that the band are living off the same set list for the past few months. They look vacant on certain songs and there's hardly any element of surprise to be unleashed. They should include some b-sides like 'This Is Not A Competition', 'Staying Fat', 'The Marshals Are Dead' or 'Tulips' or even a few cover tunes.
Overall, the support acts were nothing special and Bloc Party was not at their best. But for some strange reason, it was still an enjoyable gig. This could be evidence of how good Bloc Party actually are; that despite poor sound, a largely uncooperative audience and not being on blistering form, they still make you think 'Hey, these guys are really good'.
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