I’ve always been a big Bloc Party fan. But, controversially for some, far from holding Kele Okereke in contempt of court for breaking up the band, I am loving his new album, The Boxer. I was therefore so-excited-I-nearly-popped to see him play live at Webster Hall in New York City last night. And, I wasn’t disappointed.
Attracting its fair share of ardent bloc party fans, the gig proved that New Yorkers were in a Kele state of mind alright. Ok, so some were a bit narked by his choice of apparel – a Pistons basketball shirt – but they seemed to calm down when he explained; “I just liked the colour”. The set list and ad libs weren’t a million miles away from those he used when I saw him play Reading Festival, opening with Walk Tall and ending with the inevitably crowd-pleasing Flux.
Everything You Wanted and Tenderoni were obvious highlights, but The Other Side and Rise were some of my personal favorites. A little Bloc Party medley went down a storm too – hell, it was all mind-blowingly brilliant, shall we just settle on that? As a Brit in NYC it was really interesting to gauge the reaction of the crowd there. Perhaps a little smaller than the kind of crowd he’d attract in the UK, they were enthusiastic to say the least – which bodes well for Kele since he recently announced plans to move to Manhattan.
Indeed, with producer Alex Epton in the crowd and having recorded The Boxer in Brooklyn, this was a homecoming gig of sorts for the former Bloc Party frontman. He confessed that it was the date he’d been most looking forward to on the tour. How very dare you, Kele. And hopefully, he wasn’t disappointed either. To be honest, he bore the demeanor of a man who couldn’t believe his luck for most of the night, even returning for a second encore in answer to his adoring fans.
Fusing dancehall with electronica, funky beats and melancholy sentiment, The Boxer is one of my albums of the year. And, it’s safe to say that seeing it live is one of my gigs of the year, too. It had it all; a high energy performance, an intimate setting, Tommy Sparks on guitar, Kele at the top of his game…I could go on. And on.
If you want an indication of just how well Kele went down last night, I can tell you that there was a proper Bridget-Jones-style fight over his sweaty towel at the end between some fully grown men who should have known better. Bless them. I steered clear but sealed my night with a trip to the top of the empire state building. It was high. However, I have no doubt that after that gig, Kele felt considerably higher above his nearly native New York skyline.