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Gig Review: Bloc Party, Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide, 21 November 2018

It’s difficult to know what to make of Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm-in-its-entirety tour. Kele Okereke has only just turned 37 after all. At that age, most artists are still ensconced in the throes of creativity. It could be that Hymns’ 2016 critical mauling has compelled him to attempt to rediscover his expressive joie de vivre. Certainly there is a case to make that it’s been diminishing returns since their ferocious debut. It’s not a unique experience for a band’s first album to be its greatest and to colour everything they attempt thereafter. Not unique, but not nice either.

This gig has long since sold out anyway, and it’s an odd crowd, to be fair. Equal parts beautiful people, kids who’d have not hit their teens when Silent Alarm sounded, the odd assortment of footy jocks who seem to like this sort of thing nowadays, and ageing indie kids keen for a hit of sentimentality. The one thing that unites them – obviously – is a classic album.

They choose to do it backwards, and suddenly it almost makes for a better experience than it did the first time around. Compliments and Plans have gravitas in spades, and here those songs sound reborn and ascendant. It’s a build-up and not a wind-down. Kele grows into his showman act, urging the crowd to ‘pace themselves’ and demonstrably enjoying the interaction.

He looks fantastic as well; the skinny kid of yore is gone and in its place is an iron-pumping monster…save for the moment he breaks his teetotaling ways and necks a beer. Price Of Gasoline prompts mass clapping, She’s Hearing Voices was always an indie disco sleeper, but few bands write one classic let alone four. Bloc Party have Banquet, Positive Tension, Helicopter and Like Eating Glass. All of them are greeted with the kind of fervour and abandon reserved for a North Korean military parade, and they sound absolutely essential, with or without the wistful affection for times past.

They encore with Two More Years, still one of the greatest coming-of-age/gay pride anthems of all-time. Little Thoughts (from before Helicopter, and left off Silent Alarm) sadly attracts a muted response (well, Kele does pronounce it as being “for the real fans”), Octopus reminds you that Four really wasn’t really as bad as you thought it was – perhaps overdue a critical reappraisal? – and the same goes for The Love Within. Ratchet’s mock hip-hop stylings ( “a final rocket”) make perfect sense as a show-closer and they’re gone.

Kele has been the consummate host. Nobody is unsatisfied. But you’re left with a nagging doubt. Is this the end? An admission that they won’t have much left to say in the future? Or a way to rediscover their chutzpah? At one time, they absolutely could have gone anywhere and nobody would’ve bet against them straddling the indie-stream and the mainstream. I hope he isn’t still working it out.

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