This British combo’s biggest Gotham show to date threatened to turn into a comedy of errors before it even started thanks to a booking quirk that had the group headline the (comparatively) intimate basement theater at Madison Square Garden on the same evening a local radio station was staging a fan-appreciation show at MSG proper dubbed, naturally enough, “Block Party.” But despite perplexed aud members — and equally confused venue personnel — the evening turned out to be a sweaty celebration of cerebrum and sexuality, a blend that’s all too rare in today’s modern rock.
Drawing largely from its “Silent Alarm” album, Bloc Party hit all the right post-punk notes — a wash of Cure-styled guitar gloom here, a touch of Banshees-esque brittleness there — but did so without the slavishness that’s hamstrung so many of the most recent wave of Brit imports. That’s largely due to the presence of frontman Kele Okereke, a fascinating character who channels a singular sort of dislocation; the progeny of a Nigerian immigrant family who recently went public with his homosexuality, the singer spends a good bit of time musing about his outsider status, proudly embracing it rather than moaning about being marginalized.
Here, Okereke, whose voice recalls that of Howard Devoto, the singer for late-’70s cult act Magazine, was most successful conveying those messages in whirling, trance-like tracks such as “Positive Tension” and “Rock Starchitect.” He proved just as capable of turning up the fury on more political offerings such as “Helicopter,” which proved a fine showcase for the staccato guitar lines of Russell Lissack).
While Okereke’s whirlwind energy was hard to deny, it was equally difficult to ignore the fact that the musicians often seemed to be operating on entirely separate planes, particularly the rather disjointed rhythm section of Gordon Moakes and Matt Tong. Neither seemed to be having an off night per se, but Moakes’ decidedly groove-based bass playing and Tong’s jazzier, more iconoclastic drumming — he’s more of an abstract expressionist than a time-keeper — often failed to connect. But even when grinding gears as opposed to meshing them, the pair, and the band as a unit, made a joyful noise via hedonism alone.
Bloc Party performs Saturday at the L.A. Weekly Detour Festival in downtown Los Angeles.