Concert review and set list: Bloc Party (with IO Echo) storms back to St. Louis and the Pageant, Saturday, January 19
Kele Okereke, the frontman of Bloc Party, has a rock-star swagger about him, a presence unlike most of his peers. At one point during the band’s show at the Pageant on Saturday night, he just stood at the front of the stage, smirking, and the crowd burst into applause simply because he is who he is.
Bloc Party drifted away a bit after the release of its third album, “Intimacy,” in 2008. The album was relatively well received, but the band made it clear after it came out that it felt no pressure or obligation to record a new album in the near future. The band members went their separate ways, most notably with Okereke releasing a solo album in June 2010, and it seemed like Bloc Party was done for good. In August 2012 though, “Four” was released. It wasn’t their best, but its boldness and new sound showed that Bloc Party still had a fire left in them.
IO Echo, a four-piece from Los Angeles, opened for Bloc Party’s first show in St. Louis since 2007. Frontwoman Ioanna Gika led her band onstage at around 8 p.m., wearing a cloak patterned with what looked like palm trees and horses. She was bookended by a bassist and guitarist who had almost identical shaggy, brown hair. Behind her was a drummer who, quite honestly, I didn’t see much of because the cloak blocked most of my line of sight. They played a 30-minute set of murky goth rock that evoked Blondie covering Bat for Lashes.
Bloc Party’s stage setup was nothing more than four colored squares that resembled an Ellsworth Kelly painting mounted on a glowing blue and grey curtain. At around 9:15 p.m., lights started flashing and a few minutes later, the boys from Liverpool appeared. The two best fashion choices came from Okereke, who sported a white Smiths shirt and Matt Tong, who chose to drum wearing just jean shorts, glasses and sneakers.
The first quarter of the set was a bit slow, and besides old favorite “Hunting for Witches,” didn’t really get the crowd going. For the first five songs or so, Okereke spent a bit too much time alternating between swigs from his flask and his water bottle. During the lengthy breaks between songs though, I did notice some unexpected details: Okereke chewed gum; he’s incredibly muscular; and guitarist Russell Lissack had over a dozen pedals lined up in front of him.
Excitement kicked in right around “Banquet” and “Coliseum,” the ninth and tenth songs. Okereke finally settled on a guitar (he had used four different ones to play the first seven songs) and let loose. “We’re just starting to start,” he said at this point. “Hold on.”
“Coliseum” sounded especially good, with a twangy backing guitar and more soulful tone to the lyrics than some of other more raw, alt-punk cuts. “Octopus,” which ended what Okereke called the “first half of the show,” also stood stood out. Okereke put down his guitar, grabbed onto his microphone and turned on a new sass in his voice and motions.
Bloc Party then left the stage — for what could be described as an intermission — and came thundering back with seven more songs. Okereke talked a bit about St. Louis, including the Delmar Ice Festival that had taken place earlier in the day. “We don’t have that,” bassist Gordon Moakes chimed in. “We’ve just got rain. Rain festival.”
“Ares,” the first song of the first encore, was one of the best of the night. The whole night had a bit of a riot-like fire to it, but nothing sounded more like a protest than when the whole crowd joined Okereke to chant “War, war, war, war, I want to declare a war!”
The band played 20 songs, but there were many more that I wanted to hear. “One Month Off” and “I Still Remember,” two of Bloc Party’s biggest hits, weren’t played. Neither was “Kettling,” the most recent single. I think it’s a testament to just how successful you are as a band when you can play 20 songs and have a list of 10 more that the crowd would have loved to hear as well.
Bloc Party seemed to realize its success, too. Okereke introduced the band as “the world famous rock band, Bloc Party.” Later, he thanked us for spending our Saturday night with his “internationally renowned rock band.” I couldn’t tell if he was joking, but either way it was one more piece of evidence that Mr. Okereke knows he’s a rock star.
Bloc Party set list:
So He Begins to Lie
Hunting for Witches
Like Eating Glass
Waiting for the 7:18
Song for Clay
We Are Not Good People
This Modern Love