Bloc Party was one of the most exciting rock bands to emerge out of the UK in the last decade drawing comparisons to such groups as Joy Division, The Smiths and Radiohead. So it was quite a surprise that in October 2009, the group announced that they were going to be taking a year-long hiatus. Lead singer Kele Okereke did not remain idle – He relocated to New York to record his first solo album, ‘The Boxer’. Whereas Bloc Party hinted at elements of alternative dance and techno, ‘The Boxer’ finds Kele diving head first into the genre with a nod and an extension to bands such as Depeche Mode and New Order.
Kele brought his solo tour to a packed house at New York’s Webster Hall and it was clear from the beginning that the need to dance was the highest order. Leading a sparse three-piece unit, Kele blasted through tracks from ‘The Boxer’ with such unrelenting force, that I thought the floor was going to collapse. There was an amazing energy that Kele gave to the crowd and they returned in kind. He was also very engaging with the audience even though there was a couple of catcalls over the fact that he was in New York and wearing a bright red Pistons jersey. ‘I liked the color’, Kele responded with a smile and all was forgiven.
‘Walk Tall’, with its Army march opening, was a great opener and a call to arms. ‘Tenderoni’ and ‘Rise’ – with the soaring chrous, ‘You are stronger than you think’ are bonafide alt-dance/rock anthems. There was also reworked versions of Bloc Party’s ‘Blue Light’, the ultra rare ‘Your Visits Are Getting Shorter’ and ‘Flux’, the single that hinted at Kele’s (and the band’s) foray into electronic music. Clocking in an just over an hour, it was an extraordinary and nearly flawless set.
Kele plans to do some more touring in support of ‘The Boxer’ before resuming his work with Bloc Party. If you’re fan of alternative dance and rock, I highly suggest that you pick up the CD or check out the tour. It’s one of the best shows happening right now.