Bloc Party - Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall
When punters venture out on the coldest February evening in living memory, tailbacks trailing from the nearest car park and queues that merit 'sold out' status outside the venue, it's obvious that the Civic is playing host to a band that mean quite a bit to a lot of people. And it's a Sunday! This fact is acknowledged by none other than Kele Okereke, during the second date of Bloc Party's weekend takeover of Wolverhampton, as is the - correct - prediction that the quota of the audience who aren't carefree students will no doubt be struggling to get to work in the blizzards that follow in the morning. Add to this the fact that tonight is the band's swansong to the UK until they return for a full tour in October, and Okereke's claim that 'this time, it's personal' carries some weight. For all the Monday morning commuters, their own sense of closure and every pint-throwing fan in attendance, Bloc Party make good on their moniker and tear the fucking roof off.
Nestled in the relatively restrained atmosphere of the central balcony (a first for me at what I thought was a done-to-death venue), it was heartening to see new single One Month Off greeted on the floor by the kind of fan hysteria that turns the entire first half of the crowd into one swirling moshpit. Halo and Talons, both angsty and muscular pieces of rock that tighten further the band's 'angular' sound, are similarly well-received; it's pleasing to see that download-first, buy-later album Intimacy, which didn't get an overabundance of love from the press, has struck a chord with the fans to whom the music matters. The indifference that met second album Weekend in the City is experienced anew upon hearing the clunky Where Is Home? in a live setting, and yet the swooning Waiting for the 7.18 (which, by the time it gets to its carefree 'Let's go to Brighton for the weekend' refrain, almost has me darting to the nearest train) and paranoid Song for Clay finally click. The latter segues seamlessly into Banquet, dropped mid-set like a bomb welcomed with open arms, and is the first bona fide 'moment' of the night, and one that shows how Silent Alarm has stealthily weaved its way into the collective conscience to become one of the albums of the decade.
Fallout from Okereke and bandmates' dirty attack takes shape in a carefully calculated recovery mission, and any survivors in the building will be returned to full health upon hearing old friends So Here We Are and This Modern Love (why was it never a single?!). It's during the quieter moments where Kele finds time to show off the booty he's collected so far tonight from throw-happy fans - we get one pair of boxer shorts (?) and a 'pearl necklace', which Kele assumes is from Claire's Accessories and is modelled handsomely by bare-chested (and, it should be mentioned, is up there with Arctics' Matt Helders) drummer Matt Tong, during a Mercury that is as thrilling as its studio-manipulated CD version. Kele, meanwhile, proves himself as one of our most beguiling leads, by turns menacing, maudlin and mad fer it; he even makes a case for himself as a genuine nice guy by donning a tee printed with the name of support act Tommy Sparks, an up-and-comer who impressed earlier with a set of punchy pop tracks.
The Party is almost over but not before an encore that misleads by kicking off with the melancholy - and more than appropriately titled - Sunday. It gives bassist Gordon a chance to team up with Matt on a second set of drum kits (let's hope Russell is happy with his guitar, bless him, seeing as he doesn't get to show off any mad new skillz this time around) but, as pleasant as it is, it's no Two More Years, Hunting for Witches or Tulips. Heck, it's not even the joyous pop of early fan fave Little Thoughts. All are sadly absent tonight but, perhaps more tragically, we don't get a full showcase of Intimacy, meaning we miss out on the glockenspiel-led prettifulness of Signs. Boo! Maybe that's the one drawback of a two-night residency though, the band getting the chance to experiment and mix up setlists, for better and worse.
I'll shut up now though, as any fan bemoaning the lack of Flux, the in-betweener that paved the way for album number three's electronic wonderland, can't be sad for too long upon hearing the rest of the band's prolonged goodbye. Although it's welcome, this year's return of The Prodigy is hardly needed when we have a stormer such as Ares, while the dark trip of The Prayer seals the deal. Barnstorming regular closer Helicopter is just the proverbial icing, and makes up for the death-defying trips on actually icy roads on the way home. As the second month of the new year teeters on its second day, it is reassuring to know that, unlike fellow graduates from the class of 2004 Kaisers and Razorlight, Bloc Party will be back in October with another setlist that refuses to rest on obvious laurels. Heck, they'll probably have ditched the newfound dance edge for bhangra-infused jazz odyssies. They do say the most spontaneous parties are the best, after all...
One Month Off
Where Is Home?
Waiting for the 7.18
Song for Clay (Disappear Here)
This Modern Love
Letter to My Son
So Here We Are
Like Eating Glass