Show Review

Bloc Party @ Newport Music Hall 5/21

Lisa Sanchez

​I was so thrilled when I found out Bloc Party was playing at Newport Concert Hall in Columbus. In my humble opinion, Newport has some of the best sound quality of any venue in the state and Bloc Party deserves the utmost in sonic clarity. The band hit the stage on May 21st to a mostly packed crowd.

This was my first time seeing Bloc Party, although their latest album Hymns simultaneously made me feel very cool and decidedly never cool enough to listen to the band. The UK four piece has existed in different iterations since 2003, led by lead singer and guitarist Kele Okereke, but Hymns was the first album Bloc Party had released since 2012 and it packed a powerful punch. The band’s current lineup includes Russell Lissack on lead guitar, keyboard, and synthesizer, Justin Harris on bass and glockenspiel, and Louise Bartle on drums.

When Bloc Party hit the Newport stage, I realized I didn’t dare put earplugs in for this show. I didn’t want to miss any of the weird synth beats in songs like “Only He Can Heal Me,” “Banquet,” and “So He Begins to Lie.” It's a decision I've yet to regret.

The band began their set with “Only He Can Heal Me” from Hymns with rhythmic, almost tribal beats and Okereke’s sanguine vocals cutting through in a song-song, spoken word fashion. Bloc Party grabbed my attention right off the bat with their chill stage presence and my general amazement at the effects I was hearing being executed perfectly live. Obviously it’s due to a big ass sound board in the back, but the attention to detail itself was impressive for Bloc Party’s show.

I didn’t realize how many recognizable songs Bloc Party actually have until they began their show at Newport. These are either tracks I didn’t realize belonged to Bloc Party or songs I had simply forgotten about from years ago. “Ratchet” was an excellent groovy, funk-influenced throwback along with “Flux” which is basically a straight up new wave techno song and “Banquet” which many people will remember getting heavy airplay on pretty much any alternative station from 2012 to 2013.

Although I enjoyed hearing Bloc Party live, most of the band’s performance was a little stiff. I know there is only so much movement you can do when playing post-punk alternative new wave, but even through the assortment of adjectives that describe Bloc Party, I would have appreciated a little more stage action.

Of course, the exception to this rule is Okereke. With the advantage of being unencumbered by instruments for half the performance, the lead singer pulled off some pretty smooth dance moves. It’s not a great compliment to say they were the best moves in the venue, because those were mostly comprised of white girls swaying, but he definitely took the prize. Everyone thinks they can dance to Bloc Party like Bloc Party. Not to mention I could just listen to that man read the phone book his vocals are almost angelic in range.
​There aren’t many bands I’d drive to Columbus to see. If you asked me before the show at Newport, I would probably say Bloc Party wouldn’t be worth the journey on my list. But, after seeing them in their full glory, I think I’ve changed my mind. Bloc Party are literally a party band without the pretension and that came off really well both in their sound and their performance at the Newport.

The band will continue their tour into Europe, but will return with another Ohio show in Cleveland on July 24 at House of Blues in Cleveland.