- The Washington Times - Monday, June 20, 2005

Looks can be deceiving in rock ‘n’ roll. Witness Thursday’s sold-out show at the 9:30 Club by Bloc Party, the current U.K. indie darlings. As the four lads from South London made their way to the intimate stage — sans cigarettes or beer bottles — they didn’t have the look of a group that some have called the best British band of 2005. Instead, they resembled a high school band preparing to play the local talent show. But those first impressions became distant memories when the group finally plugged in and tore into the first of 14 songs, the bass-driven ballad “So Here We Are.”

Nearly every major music magazine has written about Bloc Party, and hordes of critics have praised the band, which in most cases would equal overexposure and the presumable kiss of death for an indie rock favorite.

With all the hubbub, you’d naturally expect the men’s egos to match the hype — but that’s not the case.

Driven by the ferocious drumbeats of a shirtless Matt Tong, the quartet tore through their entire debut album, “Silent Alarm.” Their genre-bending sound, both live and on the album, conjures up images of the best of early punk bands (such as the Pixies and the Sex Pistols) coupled with the lyrical urgency of early U2 and the techno flavor of Joy Division. Lead singer Kele Okereke’s heavy English accent shined throughout the night whether he was performing or chatting up the audience.

While most bands save their singles and hits for late in their set or for the encore, Bloc Party (making its second appearance in the area within a week after opening for the Pixies June 13 at Merriweather Post Pavilion) inverted the standard concert agenda of saving the best for last by offering all its hits early in the night to the sweaty, standing-room-only crowd.

“Banquet,” their dance punk hit, drew the biggest ovation and left most of the crowd dancing and nodding their heads in unison to the beat.

The band also alternated its pace, mixing the ballads “Blue Light” and “This Modern Love” with rockish anthems “Like Eating Glass” and “Helicopter” to keep the crowd on its feet and guessing what would come next.

A trio of lesser-known and more political songs — “Compliments,” “The Price of Gas” and “Pioneers” — were saved for Bloc Party’s encore and likely were meant to leave a statement. For the most part, though, the tunes simply gave the exuberant concertgoers 15 more minutes to cheer.

Bloc Party definitely is benefiting from the public’s love affair with such post-punk bands as the Bravery and Franz Ferdinand. However, judging from the 9:30 show, the quartet appears to have enough drive and ingenuity to outlast flavor-of-the-day mode and carry on for years to come.


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