The city was quiet and strange, glazed in puddles from a midday rain no one could quite recall. The musings of a lone saxophonist drifted through the park. The only sign of life was Irving Plaza’s reddish glow, which, for so many New Yorkers, still induces the same thrill as entering a haunted house. Under the twinkling chandeliers, a security guard greeted us in a dramatic Vincent Price voice. “Welcome to the Plaza,” he boomed. Then, only half-jokingly, he warned us of the dangers of post-punk and indie rock, as if he were instructing us to keep all arms and legs inside the vehicle. Dangers noted, we braced ourselves for a ride.
Turns out that Bloc Party were both the storm and the calm before it. The calm was a soft and slick intro, indie as it gets. Frontman Kele Okereke eased into “Only He Can Heal Me” with just enough delicacy to almost have us fooled, subduing us in a silky, Britpop haze. Some of the crowd knew what Bloc Party had up their sleeves. A good many, though, were shocked to hear the hardcore drop that suddenly sent the Plaza thrashing. “Octopus,” “Virtue,” and then we were in the storm.
With rushing basslines from Justin Harris and thunderous drums from Louise Bartle, Bloc Party went zero to sixty and reaped the screams. They were theatrical and unapologetic about it, making songs from their newest album, Hymns, sound harder than ever, and even taking on a cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes.” Between songs, the British rockers charmed, and Okereke instilled words of wisdom like “The only way to get over someone is to get under someone else.” He and guitarist Russell Lissack rocked with focus under the strobes, and the audience let out rollercoaster-drop squeals every time they made a move. No wonder we’d been warned.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Mor Weizman