04
May
09

No Longer Hoping For a Miracle: Bloc Party at the Burton Cummings Theatre

bloc_party_kele-burton-cummings

It’s been quite some time since I last attended a gig – I suppose it would technically be MSTRKRFT last year. What a way to kick off my gig going for 2009 with Bloc Party at the Burton Cummings Theatre last night. Despite the bitterness of not getting floor tickets (read here for further huffing and puffing), I really felt like it was worth my five year wait (punctuated by my watching them play numerous English festivals on television) to see them live. I would like to explain how my first balcony experience usually goes – I stay seated and watch from my okay vantage point while cursing the people swarming in front of the stage below me. This time, I left feeling like I had been directly in front of the stage; my voice was ragged from screaming, my body was exhausted from dancing, my limbs were pumping with endorphins, and my face had that goofy smile I get when I’ve just witnessed a fantastic show. Bloc Party managed to project such an incredible energy and intimacy way up to my balcony, and likely to the second balcony above me, that I could even forgive the rather idiotic girls doing erotic dancing in front of me. Bloc Party is one of those rare bands that really means something and is consistently wonderful with both musical composition and lyrics. They have outrun and outshone all of their peers, meaning the British bands that were touted as the next British invasion back in 2004. And they continue to rock even as more and more electronic influences creep into their post-punk sound.

The opening act was Canada’s own Hot Hot Heat, a band I saw as a headliner in the exact same venue back in 2005. I only attended that Hot Hot Heat show because I wanted to see the opening act The Futureheads, and they reminded me why all over again. It actually felt like I fell through a wormhole back to the earlier show as the lead singer tottered around the stage with his lollipop body and kept nearly going face-first into his keyboard, and I still only recognize and remember the song Middle Of Nowhere. Even though they tick all the right indie band boxes, I don’t feel anything from them. Their forty minute set seemed like an hour.

Bloc Party strode on to the stage roughly forty minutes after Hot Hot Heat vacated the stage and kicked the show off with One Month Off, which nearly blew my head off (those opening chords still remind me of Klaxons’ Atlantis to Interzone). It was the last show of their tour here and they made sure it counted as they included a fair helping from their latest record, Intimacy, including a heartbreaking performance of Biko, a mind-melting Talon, a scratchy, vulnerable Trojan Horse, and Mercury, which was even more deliciously disorienting live with the reverb and overdubbing bouncing and scissoring through the fog machine mist. The moment in which the audience really came alive and broke out of their indie hipster detachment was when the band flew into the windmilling, twitchy Banquet – from there on in the entire audience was with them. By that point, Okereke’s comment “put away your cameras and start dancing” was superfluous. I was pleasantly surprised that they also played Price of Gasoline, Blue Light and Positive Tension (which elicited a hearty “nothing ever happens” from the crowd). And we were treated to stand-alone single Two More Years, which Okereke prefaced by saying that the real fans will know this song (by those standards, I suppose I’m well beyond real fan status). The only time when the acoustics or levels didn’t seem quite right was for Hunting For Witches. The set proper ended with a cardiac arrest-inducing pairing of The Prayer and Like Eating Glass.

bloc-party-russell-lissack-burton-cummings

Throughout the show, Okereke easily launched back and forth between impassioned desperation, emotional violence and intelligent sensitivity, his leg pumping like a piston, while guitarist, Russell Lissack, took his customary head-down stance while shredding on his guitar at lightning speed from under that distinctive angular fringe. Even though there was always the possiblity for the sound to be muddy from the amount of rhythms and parts flying around at any given time, the sounds remained crisp, angular and precise; even when the audience couldn’t quite work out how to clap to the crazy syncopation, the music remained tight through the supersonic speed. There’s something machine-like about Bloc Party’s cohesion, but at the same time, they generate white-hot intimacy and honesty that soar through Okereke’s vocal chords like blood-red butterflies.

Despite the serious impression one gets of Okereke, he was one of the warmest, liveliest frontmen I’ve seen; between half-runs and some shuffles backwards when not encumbered by his guitar, he kept grabbing people’s hands, talking to audience members (including a girl named Aretha, to which he asked if we should give her some RESPECT), and addressing people as “sweetheart.” Drummer Matt Tong even indulged the audience’s request for a drum solo with some bashful fills. And the entire band had that same attitude I get from British bands every time I see them here; it’s that seemingly surprised delight that people in this far-flung location actually love them and their music. Okereke kept thanking us for being so generous, and he ended the entire show by shaking the hands of some fans up in the front. Another rather brilliant moment was when two girls leaped out of the crowd and onto the stage to hug Okereke; as they were placed back onto the floor, I was reminded of the way Morrissey is often accosted by loving fans. In many ways, Okereke is a similar figure for this generation, full of wit, sensitivity and insecurities. As he sings in Uniform, he is a martyr who just needs a motive.

Returning to the stage for an encore, they continued to ignite the already explosive audience with a blistering rendition of Ares. This came after Okereke told us that he had read up on Winnipeg before coming and that he discovered that we had the fourth highest crime rate in the country. He then goaded the audience to violence, and during the ensuing song, I definitely felt like I was sparring with all of my frustrations as we bounced to the sound of sirens. Bathed in flashing green light, Bloc Party continued with Flux, their fabulously cathartic dancefloor anthem. The energy came down to a hushed intensity as they began This Modern Love, which Okereke dedicated to the two girls who had accosted him earlier and classifed as “steamy.” The epic conclusion was the spinning, jagged Helicopter, which whipped its way through the theatre via blindingly stunning guitarwork, especially during the interlude in which all three guitars play off each other in a spectacular show of precision. The entire group also made the rather charming gesture of taking a bow together. With “are you hoping for a miracle” still echoing in my mind as I stumbled out onto the street, it felt like my prayer had been answered – I was unstoppable for one night, and after five years, I had finally gotten my miracle.

NOTE: Because I was nowhere near close enough to get proper photos, I’ve used images from the Winnipeg music blog Painting Over Silence.

Two More Years (MSTRKRFT Remix) – Bloc Party

Flux – Bloc Party

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4 Responses to “No Longer Hoping For a Miracle: Bloc Party at the Burton Cummings Theatre”


  1. 1 jc
    May 5, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    great review!!! There are very few better feelings in life than the buzz from being at an unforgettable live gig.

  2. May 5, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    I just saw them the other weekend, and they must attract a different kind of crowd in Seattle–I nearly got pummeled by all the teenage boys moshing to “This Modern Love.” (REALLY?) They put on an awesome show, though! And I just love how nice they are as people; I waited after to give them a present (because I’m That Fan), and Kele and Matt were so sweet and happy to talk to me. They’re definitely deserving of their adoring fanbase.

  3. 3 Leo
    June 28, 2009 at 8:03 am

    Hey, can someone help me. I have youtubed and googled for a song Burton Cummings sang, called ‘You’re The One’ and can’t find anything.

    I remember some lyrics.

    ‘Found me on this rocky shore, gave me love and gave me more, You’re the one.

    Anybody know this song?

    • 4 Janet Maggiacomo
      July 22, 2009 at 9:04 am

      I believe the song you are looking for is You’re the One” performed by David Clayton Thomas (from Blood Sweat and Tears).


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Gigs Attended

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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave

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So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun

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Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head

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Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away

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Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners

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Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away

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You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender

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I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding

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You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black

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Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

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Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

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Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape

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Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

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To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning

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My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

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Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love

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I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

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Forever, forever

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It's not supposed to happen like that

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Make me smell like myself

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I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

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Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

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There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

Johnny Boy

I just can't help believing

Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

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Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

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Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell

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Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

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Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are

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You must let her go

She's not crying

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Baiting

Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times

Valentines

Hating

Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone

Whipcrack

Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't

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So I walk right up to you

And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need

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The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

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The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest

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Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know

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No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more

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All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids

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Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome


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