Bloc Party is accustomed to playing for massive crowds on outdoor stages in Europe and Asia.
BY BILL BROWNLEE
Special to The Star
The British band crammed its gear into Lawrences Liberty Hall on Sunday. In spite of the venues relatively intimate size, the venue wasnt nearly full. If the members of the band were disappointed by the sparse turnout, they didnt let it show.
Youre here. Were here, frontman Kele Okereke said. Were making it work.
His bands performance didnt merely work. Okereke and his cohorts gave a stadium-size effort for an audience of about 600 fans. Rather than behaving like disinterested rock stars performing on a cold night for a small crowd of Midwesterners, Bloc Party assumed the identity of an impassioned bar band with something to prove.
For 90 minutes the band showcased a sound that falls neatly between the blatantly commercial aspirations of acts like Coldplay and the willfully obscure experimentation of the indie rock underground. Bloc Party may not be particularly innovative, but it distills the best ideas of other artists into a pleasing amalgam of styles.
Silent Alarm, its 2005 debut album, remains the bands most successful and beloved project. The quartet seemed determined to demonstrate that the new material is just as vital.
The off-kilter dance-rock of Octopus from the 2012 album Four served as a rousing opening number. The band verified its ongoing ability to compose memorable material with other new songs, including the sinewy Real Talk, the dubstep-infused Ratchet and So He Begins to Lie, a song Okereke dedicated to football star Manti Teo.
Even so, the audience responded most enthusiastically to old favorites like Banquet and Helicopter. The quartets taut musicianship impressed. As guitarist Russell Lissack issued a steady stream of state-of-the-art modern rock riffs, the grooves dished out by bassist Gordon Moakes and drummer Matt Tong kept fans near the stage in constant motion.
While the band was lean, its massive light show was excessive. Members of the audience had to shield their eyes from the blinding array.
Opening act EO Echo, a Los Angeles-based duo augmented by two additional musicians, also favored extreme effects. Illuminated by strobe lights, vocalist Ioanna Gika pranced across the stage like an unfettered Fiona Apple to a backdrop of imposing industrial synth-pop.
The evenings ostentatious lighting displays may have been better suited to larger venues, but Bloc Party admirably showed that it can deliver a potent performance to a modest gathering of devoted enthusiasts.