Welcome to a little concert comparison with Bloc Party! This was the first time I attended two concerts from one tour. Both concerts were part of the “Four Tour”, which started in September 2012 in North America. The first concert was at the Docks club in Hamburg as part of the first European section in November 2012. Then they went back to America and Japan before finally continuing the European section in February this year. Both concerts were marvellous but with some differences. I’ll try to show them and elect some kind of winner at the end.
Let’s start with the venues. Docks is a famous and “notorious” concert venue on the popular Reeperbahn in Hamburg with a capacity of about 1,500. Many concerts from well-known bands and ascending heroes took place there. But for some concert-enthusiasts like me it’s not a desirable name to pop up on concert listings because sometimes the sound is not the best and they have the worst cloakroom and air conditioning of all clubs in Hamburg. But don’t worry, I had some really great concerts there and the one by Bloc Party was one of them.
The E-Werk in Cologne is a much bigger venue than Docks with a capacity of 2,000. As an old protected monument, it offers a nice atmosphere. The sound was really good and another nice fact is that the WDR sometimes records concerts for its show “Rockpalast”, and so they did on the evening of the Bloc Party gig, which led to a little cameo from me.
Now a word about the support acts. Bloc Party always had really great support bands, from Biffy Clyro to Foals to Delphic. I think they have an eye for wonderful new bands, especially ones with electronic influences. As a consequence, I was a bit disappointed about their Hamburg support PVT or Pivot. It’s a indietronic-trio from Australia making music since 1999. It was good, but nothing new for me.
The support for Cologne were indie-noise-rock trio The Joy Formidable from North Wales. I was very excited for them, because I really like their new record “Wolf’s Law”. Their gig contained everything you would expect from a Joy Formidable show, including big refrains, shouting to heat up the audience and a huge tumult at the end with lots of noise and guitar smashing. All in all it could have been their own show. Unfortunately not many people in the audience knew them, so the only ones dancing were a few people in the front including me. Luckily at the end of the night I noticed some people had bought their LP.
On both nights, the cheerful and enthusiastic audience ranged from 16-year-olds to 40-somethings in their midlife crisis. Because of the bigger venue, Cologne had the more powerful moshpit, with the roughest pogo at “Coloseum” and “We Are Not Good People” and the largest circle during “Helicopter” that I’ve ever seen at a Bloc Party show. I could see some girls crying when they played “This Modern Love” and also enjoyed the first crowdsurfing of my life at this one. Seeing two girls fighting for the setlist in the end I had to laugh and think: ‘Okay, Bloc Party also have fan girls.’
The setlists were pretty similar on both nights. Altogether they played mostly songs from “Four”, which I enjoyed, but as a huge fan of “Silent Alarm” and “A Weekend in the City” I was waiting for the old ones. But sadly the old ones switch every night so that I enjoyed “Like Eating Glass” at Docks and “Positive Tension” at E-Werk and missed the “The Prayer” both times. As the first song of the second half they usually play a special version of a quiet one. Those special songs were “Signs” from their third LP “Intimacy” at Docks and, to my surprise, “Kreuzberg” at E-Werk, dedicated to a guy in the audience. I’d always wanted to hear this song live, because it’s one of my favourites. For the encore they played totally new track “Ratchet” as a little gem, showing Kele almost rapping to a nervous guitar riff.
Kele, Russell, Gordon and Matt were in good shape, maybe a bit too relaxed on the evening in Hamburg, because it was a Sunday and they’d had a day off before. Matt, as always only in sliced jeans-shorts, was rocking behind his drumset and Russell with his head down concentrated on his glorious melodies and riffs and his 30 effect pedals or so. It’s hard to get a smile out of him. Kele was wearing an odd Hawaiian shirt like from a mafia movie and obviously chewed a gum the whole concert. He’s definately an entertainer, but some of his announcements are mostly the same. Luckily he didn’t tell the old Jägermeister story like he did in Hamburg. I remember him crowdsurfing, jumping arround the stage and lying down on the floor back in 2009. In comparison to that it seems that they’ve lost some of their energy now, but everbody gets old, huh? Playing “Helicopter” every night at the end, it’s not difficult to feel the band’s boredom. But that’s the way it is with a “hit”. But the fact that they’re still a wonderful live band will never change and you should catch them at their festival shows! Both concerts were gorgeous, but considering a few subtleties, Cologne was the better one, so I’ll leave you with a few more images of that night.