Live Review: Bloc Party, Drenge, Rat Boy

O2 ABC – 5/2

There was a time in the mid-2000s when the NME tour was one of the hottest tours of the year, bringing together the country’s most exciting new acts on one stage, but with indie rock in the doldrums, this year’s edition has had to rely on a tried and tested headliner to bring in the audience.

First though, there are sets from Essex tyke Rat Boy – think Jamie T jamming with the View – and noisy sibling rockers Drenge. The latter channel the free form noise of Sonic Youth through a series of crunching riffs that send the pit down the front into ecstasy, especially on the extended finale to fan favourite ‘Fuckabout’. Since they began touring their second album, Eoin and Rory Loveless have recruited a bassist and now their sound is heavier than ever, delivering gigantic walls of sound that flirt with disintegrating into feedback at any moment.

‘We Can Do What We Want’ channels cult punks The Only Ones and Exploding Hearts and while Drenge only have time for ten songs, they really make them count, delivering track after track that display why they’re one of the UK’s most exciting guitar bands.

On paper, Bloc Party were the most interesting act of the mid-2000s indie boom:  racially diverse, politically engaged (albeit somewhat clumsily), and adept at borrowing from the best of post-punk and electronica. Unfortunately after several line-up changes they’re not quite on stellar form. This year’s Hymns was their least engaging record to date and whirring single ‘The Love Within’ aside, the audience are perfectly happy to ignore anything released after 2008’s Intimacy.

Intermittently there are sparks; the moody ‘Banquet’ segueing into ‘One More Chance’ elicits a few sing-songs but perhaps it’s the restless crowd or the lack of chemistry between Bloc Party mk2, but the ABC never explodes into life.

A final burst through revolutionary electro-punk single ‘Flux’, Silent Alarm’s still excellent ‘Helicopter’ and rapped set closer ‘Ratchet’ is the best stretch of the night, finally settling the fan chatter and ending the set on a high, but it’s fair to say that Bloc Party have had better nights.

[Max Sefton – @MaxSefton]


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