On The List :: Bloc Party @ Roseland Ballroom [9.18.08]

32feet can't be everywhere at once. This guest concert review is brought to you by Chuck from Dead Bands, one of the best blogs in the world.

A free concert almost always turns out to be a bittersweet affair. Such was the case for Bloc Party's free, semi-secret show at Roseland Ballroom on Thursday night. Although the initial response to the ticket price is certainly appealing, you never really think about the dire circumstances that you will undoubtedly face upon arriving at the venue. Doors for this particular show were scheduled for 7:15 pm. By the time I got there, the line had wrapped around the entire block (insert pun here), so that the first and last person in line were standing right next to each other. The website for the event claimed that no one would be let in without an online RSVP. However, I found the coordinators were haphazardly doling out bracelets to anyone walking by. Despite how many people actually showed up for this thing, once they were filed into the venue, it was actually downright comfortable.

The opening act for the evening was Amazing Baby, who also played the last Bloc Party show in New York, about 4 weeks ago at Webster Hall. It is unclear why this Brooklyn septet was chosen to open both shows, considering the fact that absolutely zero Bloc Party fans could get into them. Every song sounded like a junior high cover band attempting to play “Gimme Shelter.” Not even their two homely backup singers could grasp the attention of the audience. The “band” mercifully ended their set after roughly 40 minutes. Just as everyone started to get the feeling they had been cheated, the lights went down and Bloc Party appeared. Drummer Matt Tong walked onstage draped in what appeared to be a velvet blanket, only to reveal himself wearing nothing but boxers and a wife beater. Singer/guitarist Kele Okereke, once again donning his Jamaican-flag-colored Barack Obama shirt, immediately addressed the fact that this show was free, and that everyone should be cheering louder.

Another downside to the free show experience is that this gives the band the right to try out all of their new stuff on the audience. Although you really want to hear all of your old favorites, you will most likely have to sit through at least 5-6 songs that this band is not used to playing live. This accounted for a rather tired rendition of “Signs” and “Ares,” which found Kele rushing to sing both of his studio-overdubbed vocal parts at once. Unfortunately, they decided to leave “Ion Square” out of their set, which is far and away the strongest song on their new album, Intimacy. Although there were some decent moments in a few of the new songs, it was clear what the audience really wanted to hear. When the opening chords to “Banquet” and “Helicopter” broke in, it was an absolute frenzy. In contrast, songs from A Weekend in the City got a lukewarm reaction. By booking a free show, Bloc Party guaranteed themselves a Silent Alarm type of crowd. This made for a show that was only about 40% satisfying for most attendees. Thus is the dilemma of the free show. Bloc Party comes away with a little bit more experience, but also an unsure outlook for their future. The audience comes away with just enough satisfaction to make it worth their time.

Listen :: Bloc Party vs. Katy Perry - I Kissed A Banquet

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