Bloc Party Blows in the Windy City

(Video included) I had heard from other trusted music lovers and friends that Bloc Party put on a rock-solid show, and they blew me away in Grant Park at Lollapalooza in 2008, molding a perfect pre-game performance to the much anticipated set from Radiohead. So, when I heard Bloc Party was making their way to the Big Windy for the beginning of the Spring concert season, I jumped at the chance to hear them live again, on their own tour.

blocparty2The show was originally set to play at the Riviera but due to popular demand it was moved to the Aragon Ballroom, one of my favorite venues in Chicago, with it’s starry night flair and old-fashioned theme. They started things out with one of the big hits off their newest album which got the crowd screaming and singing right off the bat. Now, I started out liking Bloc Party from listening to their previous albums before they made a switch from their heavy guitar post-punk beginnings to a more electronic rock sound. I wasn’t a huge fan of the change and felt their new album didn’t meet the standards of those previous to it. So, I went into the evening hoping to hear some “oldies but goodies.”

As the show went on I found myself feeling something I have rarely felt at a rock show before – boredom. They failed to play much from their other albums and focused mostly on the new stuff. Along with this disappointment, I was having trouble hearing Kele Okereke’s distinct voice I love so much. I kept wondering if the speakers were too loud and overpowering for him to shine through. It turns out Bloc Party has cancelled their Ultra Festival performance in Miami, along with their Minneapolis and St. Louis shows due to Kele coming down with viral pharyngitis, an inflammation of the throat.

All and all, I came out of the Aragon that night feeling completely unimpressed with the performance. Don’t get me wrong, the band rocks, but the show was less than stellar in my book. I am glad I have fond memories of a phenomenal show from Lolla in ’08. That will stick in my brain but this show, unfortunately, will not. Hopefully, if I catch them again I can have a more enjoyable and satisfying experience along with a 100% healthy lead singer.

– Annie Utter

Annie, I couldn’t agree more.

Now, I’m not a big Bloc Party fan. But, I know a few songs and I heard they put on a great show so I decided it was worth a $28.50 ticket that swelled to $36 with Ticketmaster and city fees. It wasn’t.

The first thing I noticed during the show was noise. Lots and lots of noise. Russell Lissack, the young guitar player for Bloc Party, seems pretty talented, but it was hard to tell because everything seemed to blend together – from the bass, to the synthesizer to Okereke’s unique voice which, as noted, was dreadful. Beats were indiscernible and most songs devolved into a jumbled mess. And looking around, I was hardly alone. The American Eagle clad crowd was tepid, at best, and conversations could be heard taking place during and after songs.

It’s unfortunate that Okereke’s throat wouldn’t cooperate. And that was compounded by the Aragon. It’s an attractive venue, to be sure, but in my experience the acoustics are some of the worst in Chicago. I’d like to blame the Aragon for all of the sound problems, but I just don’t think that’s the case.

I walked away wondering about the attraction of Bloc Party. Then I remembered a few comments from a guy standing next to me. “I love the British, man. They could say [anything] and I would love it.” And that was follwed up with, “Black British guys are the shit! Know what I’m saying?”

Is there something to that? I don’t know. I do know that we Americans seem to have a fascination with the British accent. And ever since the British Invasion of The Beatles, we’ve come to believe that anything from across the pond must be good.

– Mike Phillips

Below is some video from the show, a performance of “Ion Square.”


One Reply to “Bloc Party Blows in the Windy City”

  1. Thanks for the review. I was really hoping to make this show knowing that it wasn’t sold out. But it was a really cold and rainy night and i was too sick to make the trip. Sounds like i made the right decision to stay home. I’m a new fan of Silent Alarm, but not too overly excited about Intimacy. It’s been a couple of years since i went to the Aragon, and i remember it being horrible for sound. The decor was pretty, but more suited for a circus than a rock show. I’d give Bloc Party a pass and blame it on the Aragon, the sound guy, and the talking crowd.

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