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From club gigs to the Hollywood Bowl, Bloc Party close their U.S. tour with their largest show ever

Bloc PartyBy Josh Herwitt //

Bloc Party with Bob Mould, Ezra Furman //
Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles
September 25th, 2016 //

For those of us who attended college in the early 2000’s, Bloc Party were one of those bands that epitomized our most formative years. Back then, there weren’t many making music quite like the English quartet was, pioneering a sound rooted in indie rock, yet partially influenced by the surrounding UK electronic scene.

Now more than a decade after the release of their seminal debut LP Silent Alarm, Bloc Party are still going strong with Kele Okereke and Russell Lissack at the helm. The two Londoners have known each other for close to 20 years, and while each have their own projects outside of Bloc Party, what they’ve built together over five studio albums isn’t something to sneer at.

At the same time, it’s fair to say that the band’s last three records — 2008’s Intimacy, 2012’s Four and this year’s Hymns, which came out in January — haven’t struck a chord quite like Silent Alarm and A Weekend in the City both did. And with the departure of original band members Matt Tong and Gordon Moakes, it’s been on Okereke and Lissack to carry things forward while writing the group’s next chapter.

Bloc Party

But even after all the commercial success they’ve had, what’s cool about Bloc Party is that they’re still playing big and small venues. This was no more evident than at the end of their latest U.S. tour, which saw them go from playing 1,000-person clubs like Mezzanine in San Francisco (see our photos from the show here) to headlining the one and only Hollywood Bowl with support from former Hüsker Dü leader Bob Mould and 30-year-old indie singer-songwriter Ezra Furman, who crossdressed to impress with a bright red one-piece, black stalkings and a pearl-like necklace.

It was the second time in two months that we were invited to cover a show at the legendary amphitheater (read about our first time here), and while Sufjan Stevens, Kurt Vile and The Violators, and Ibeyi provided a more compelling billing with quite a few more theatrics (at least on Stevens’ part), this one had its own unique storyline that made it special to witness. After all, it only seemed fitting that after playing small clubs and theaters amid a myriad of festival dates over the summer, Bloc Party were wrapping up a months-long tour with their largest crowd ever on hand. Don’t ask me what the attendance number was, but I think it’s fair to say the venue was no more than half full. Of course, thanks to LA’s new music festival Music Tastes Good taking place in downtown Long Beach over the same weekend, it wasn’t surprising to see the top two sections of the Bowl completely empty for the latest edition of KCRW’s second World Festival series. But that’s really just how big the Bowl is in size — and how big of an artist/band it takes to sell the place out on a Sunday night in late September.

Feeding off the raw energy of Mould’s punk-fueled set, Okereke (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards, sampler), Lissack (lead guitar, keyboards), Justin Harris (bass guitar, keyboards, saxophones, backing vocals) and Louise Bartle (drums, percussion) dove immediately into their newest material, following a setlist that closely resembled, yet didn’t match past ones from the tour. For as high as Hymns has charted all across Europe and Australia though, the strength of Bloc Party’s live show remains firmly grounded in their first two LPs. If anything, their Hollywood Bowl debut, highlighted by A Weekend in the City fan favorites “Song for Clay (Disappear Here)” and “Hunting for Witches” in addition to Silent Alarm classics “Helicopter” and “This Modern Love” during a five-song encore, brought back memories of what it felt like to hear those songs for the first time. I know they say you shouldn’t live in the past, but for a little more than an hour in the Hollywood Hills, Bloc Party made it feel OK to do just that.

Setlist:
Only He Can Heal Me
So Real
She’s Hearing Voices
Mercury
Song for Clay (Disappear Here)
Banquet
Two More Years
Different Drugs
Octopus
Hunting for Witches
Virtue
Positive Tension
The Love Within

Encore:
Stunt Queen
Flux
Helicopter
Ratchet
This Modern Love

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