Photo by Kenneth Cappello
So I decided to end my self-imposed concert ban and went to see Bloc Party last night. (Actually, I still probably wouldn't have gone if a friend hadn't had a spare ticket and needed a ride). I avoid going to Boston on general principles - the last time I went into Boston I got into an accident. I hate driving in Boston. Sure enough, we got lost on the way to the venue but still made it with plenty of time (because we left really early, but that was wise foresight in this instance).
There are a couple reasons I haven't bee not a concert in almost two years. The first (and coolest) is that the last show I saw was Sleater-Kinney, on what would later become their farewell tour, and it was such an amazing show that, honestly, it sort of sated my desire for live music for a long time. Which leads me to the second reason - as much as I loved seeing S-K, I hated the show itself. I think I've discussed this before: concerts would be wonderful if not for the people who go see them. When you've already got a thing about crowds in general, being forced into the position of being in close proximity with the worse-behaved specimens of modern American youth is quite simply a harrowing prospect. This is part of why I am beginning to think that I shouldn't feel to bad about going to concerts rarely, even though I enjoy it when I go. It takes a toll, and when I'm done I feel the sincere need to go lie in a cave for a week.
Bloc Party put on a good show, even if I did cringe at some of the more hammy moments - Kele Okerke's crowd-pleasing shtick wore real thin real quick. Aren't British bands supposed to be famous for their business-like reserve in front of crowds? The problems were more technical than anything else, and I suppose I'm marking myself as a hopeless fogey for even mentioning them. First, the guitars were massively out of tune for the first four or five songs, and although the problem was fixed after that point there were still a couple of dodgy moments throughout the course of the show. Is it so hard to keep your guitar in tune? Really? Secondly, the show was very badly mixed, and the sound design for the room was abominable. Boston's Orpheum is a really odd venue for rock shows, because the balcony is very low and half the building's seats are positioned under the balcony. It's a challenge to design the sound so that the highs and the lows don't cancel each other out and end up echoing badly for half the audience. They didn't succeed very well, because for most of the show the prominent noise (for me) was high-pitched guitar noise bouncing off the walls and low ceiling, effectively dampening the drums and bass. Which is a damn shame because Bloc Party has one of the best rock drummers currently working today, Mr. Matt Tong. He seemed to be having a great night - he took his shirt off about halfway through the show, which was impressive - but I'll be damned if I could hear a fraction of the intricate detail work he provided.
It's not like it's impossible to get good sound out of the Orpheum. I saw Nine Inch Nails there a little over two years back. They were (as you may imagine) considerably louder than Bloc Party. I was seated in roughly in the same area for that show, and despite the volume the sound mixing was pristine and every element could be heard with perfect clarity. Damn shame.
But still, even with these caveats, it was a good show. I can quibble about the set list - "Song For Clay (Disappear Here)" is really not as strong an opener as they seem to think it is, and I would have switched around the encore of "Helicopter" and "Banquet" so that they played the latter last and not the other way around - sort of an anticlimax, as "Helicopter" never did strike me as one of the stronger tracks off that album, despite it's popularity. They didn't play "Price of Gas", but that's a small complaint. There are worse ways to spend a Wednesday night, especially if you don't have to pay for the ticket.
quite possibly the greatest music video ever, ever*.