Friday, 4 December 2009

27: Bloc Party - Banquet

Some bands record stunning albums and then struggle to translate those songs into a compelling live performance. Other bands play stunning gigs, but release albums of middling quality. Getting the balance right is clearly tricky, and only the very best bands can do both. What you want is a live show which stays true to the original songs, but offers enough twists and nuances to make it feel special, like a one-off.

It's this particular 'X' factor (and no, I don't mean the god-awful reality show) that has persuaded me to become a die-hard Bloc Party addict. I probably would have been a fan anyway... all three albums are excellent and contain enough variety to prevent what I like to call 'Oasis syndrome'* But catch them live, and they're a whole different beast. The albums can be quite moody and cynical at times, but live, Kelechukwu 'Kele' Okereke rarely stops grinning. It's infectious. On every occasion I've seen them, I've witnessed a band having a lot of fun doing what they love to do.

'Banquet' was essentially Bloc Party's first single in May 2004 ('She's Hearing Voices' had been released as a vinyl-only single in February 2004), but it was the release of a re-recorded version in April 2005 that grabbed the attention. By that stage, 'Helicopter' and 'So Here We Are' had already been minor hits, and when XfM added 'Banquet' to their rotation, I was hooked. Something about the way the guitars seem to dance through the air, or the way Matt Tong's unconventional drumming builds the song up to its climactic chorus, I guess.

Of the many times I've caught them live, their BBC Electric Proms show at the Roundhouse in October 2007 sticks in the mind. In front of a smaller crowd than they were accustomed to playing for, Kele was in fine spirits, despite the fact that he had been diagnosed with acute pharyngitis and advised not to play. The atmosphere was spectacular and after starting the set with some of their slower numbers (to take advantage of the choir which they'd invited on stage with them), when they burst into 'Banquet', I thought the floor might collapse.

Three albums later, I wouldn't say this is necessarily my favourite Bloc Party song, but every time I come back to it, it brings a smile to my face. I've even got a favourite bit... in the bridge, the music breaks as Kele sings "and if you feel a little left behind, we will wait for you on the other side", and then the drums and guitars crash back in as he repeats the line. I've sung along to that with 70,000 at Glastonbury, and on my own in my car, and it sounds just as relevant either way.

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