Bloc Party Live in Manila: A Rocking Miracle

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We were hoping for a miracle, or something very close to it. Bloc Party made one happen in Manila.

Eight years after the release of their iconic debut album, Silent Alarm, Bloc Party finally made their first stop in Manila to give their Filipino fans a rocking musical experience that would be difficult to top. Before the Southeast Asia leg of their tour, Japan was the only Asian country the band had frequented over the years. Thank the heavens and all the goodness in the universe for their decision to put Manila in their itinerary for their world tour this year, because for the thousands of their hardcore fans who were in that hall, the experience really was one hell of a miracle.

For an hour and a half, the Hall D of World Trade Center echoed out the united roars and shrieks of the thousands of hardcore fans and music enthusiasts. Kele Okereke, Matt Tong, Russell Lissack and Gordon Moakes put out a performance that was beyond enthralling and so powerfully moving. Both the VIP and Gold area were bursting with crowds of people who were frenetically awaiting the band’s performance.

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The evening started early. When the clock struck 8pm, Up Dharma Down, went up the stage to open for Bloc Party. UDD’s performance was captivating, to say the least. Armi’s voice was as smooth as silk. The same goes with the band’s ingenuine use of different instruments to produce music that is both emotive and appealing. With a short set, they livened the audience enough to prepare them for the greatness that was about to take its place.

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When the lights completely went out, the crowd got even more frantic. Out of the darkness came the beginning drum beats and riffs of “So He Begins to Lie”, the first song off their latest album, Four. Kele, Russell, Gordon and Matt (wearing nothing but a pair shorts) took their rightful places on stage. Right after the song, Kele addressed the crowd, “Good evening, Manila. We are Bloc Party. We’re from England. How are you doing?” It was a casual greeting, really. It’s something you’d expect to hear from a stranger you happen to talk to in random coffee shops, not from the vocalist of a band that has played sold-out shows in stadiums across the world. In fact, Kele seemed too meek for a front man. He didn’t attempt to hog people attention in a rock star fashion. When he spoke, he wasn’t particularly lively nor did he try to woo the crowd with sentimentalities and praises. Still, he effortlessly kept the crowd on high with their music.

“We only have so long together, so let’s get this party started”, he continued. Appropriately enough, up next was the perfect party starter of a song “Mercury”. The crowd was more than happy to go along with it as they headbanged, danced and jumped around to the repeated, immortal lines: “My mercury’s in retrograde.”

The first set featured a diverse set list that included many songs from Four – “Team A”, “Coliseum”, “Day Four” and “Octopus”. A few were from Weekend in the City – “Hunting for Witches”, “Waiting for the 7.18” and “The Prayer”. The hysteria of the set reached its peak when the band played “Song for Clay (Disappear Here) back-to-back with the hit “Banquet”. Everyone was grooving and singing along.

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One of the many striking things about Bloc Party’s concert is the presence of the 2 encores. After a total of 13 dynamic ground-shaking songs, the band took a moment to exit the stage, only to return with a revitalized energy. Likewise, in the couple of times that the four guys reappeared on stage, the crowd had managed to restart their power gauges, strangely as if they were seeing the band appear in front of them for the first time again.

The 1st encore, also referred to by Kele as “round 2” was even more amazing than the beginning set. When the calm opening notes of “So Here We Are” started playing, the cheers got even louder. Again, the audience was more psyched up. To add to this, the gritty “Ares” was played next. You could just hear people screaming unintelligibly at its waling riffs and the pulsating beats. Another memorable moment was during “This Modern Love” when majority of the crowd sang along to every word of the song. Whoever said Bloc Party is an unknown band in the Philippines? That moment would have given those ignorant people a massive punch in the gut. Towards the end, Bloc Party even pulled out an entertaining stunt as they played a part of “We Found Love” – yes, the popular song by Rihanna – as introduction to “Flux”.

A grand element in the concert was the lighting – the way they danced and burst to every changing note of a Bloc Party track, as if to give it a more profound meaning. In different turns, the hues burned and lightened, drawing the crowd deeper and deeper to the music. But of course, the grandest thing about the concert was the four members of the band. As Matt said in the phone interview last month, “Four” was all about the four of them getting back together to play music for the love of it. True enough, you could just see so much of that during the evening. Each of them was absolutely phenomenal -Russell’s effortless guitar slashing, Gordon’s impenetrably deep mystique, Matt’s brutal hard-hitting strikes and Kele’s enchanting hold of the crowd. Bloc Party turned out to be the greatest live performers I had ever seen (so far).

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Moving on, the final set turned out to be even greater, with the crowd going more insane than ever. It started off with “Sunday”, the song about hangovers, as Kele put it. It was amusing to see how he smiled as he gave way for the crowd sing along to the lines “You see, giant proclamations are all very well, but our love is louder than words.” Then, there was the melodious “Truth” right out of their latest album. To officially close the evening, Bloc Party played the thunderously enlivening “Helicopter” which was just about the perfect ending.

Are you hoping for a miracle? I was, for sure. And hey, I got more than I bargained for when I saw them. Truth be told, Bloc Party is one band I’ve been eyeing to come to Manila since the deluge of international concerts last year. Bloc Party uniquely gets more and more interesting with time. The massive musical shifts over their albums are always something to look out for. Their songs, particularly from the first two albums, have become themes to my daily walks and commutes. For almost a year, I had kept my eyes out and my fingers crossed hoping for some definitive news of their concert here. Some time in January, the announcement was made in their Twitter account, and I almost got a heart attack out of joy, excitement and disbelief. When I was seeing them perform in front of me, I got more than heart attacks. In the span of an hour and a half, I got teary-eyed episodes, short psychotic breaks and outbursts of plain happiness.

It would be an understatement to say that the concert was a success. It rocked, in ways that I had never ever seen. If there would be one word to describe that evening, it would be “ethereal”. It was so different from the many concerts I had been to over the past year. It was otherworldly. It was beautiful.

Massive thanks to Warner Music Philippines for making this event happen.

Written by Sandra Mae Laureano

Photos by Glenn Michael Tan and Sandra Mae Laureano

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Bloc Party: Four Live in Manila Setlist:
1. So He Begins to Lie
2. Mercury
3. Hunting for Witches
4. Positive Tension
5. Team A
6. Waiting for the 7.18
7. Song for Clay (Disappear Here)
8. Banquet
9. Coliseum
10. Day Four
11. The Prayer
12. One More Chance
13. Octopus

Encore:
14. So Here We Are
15. Ares
16. This Modern Love
17. We Found Love (Rihanna cover)
18. Flux

Encore 2:
19. Sunday
20. Truth
21. Helicopter



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