In what can only be described as A Y2K indie rockers wet dream, Manhattan force, Interpol, and London legends, Bloc Party team up for an epic amphitheatre takedown. Both groups soundtracked the early noughties with masterful debut albums and their sets on this cool November evening were showcases of their longstanding double decade careers.
Having just returned from a two-week European and UK tour, Awabakal Land / Newcastle post-punk five-piece, dust settled the crowd with playful power-hits Joy (Guilt) and Ward 52.
“We’re dust from Newcastle. This is a lifetime experience.”
As tight and energetic as these young guns were, notably, the rolling green hill of the Bowl was met by ill panning and compression issues on the sound, an unfortunate error that slid into the first half of Interpol’s set and reappeared throughout Bloc Party’s set, seeing the larger-than-life stylings of both indie greatest fractured. Muffled and muddied, the guitars stuck together like chewing gum and vocals were drowned. Gut-punches from the heavy set drumming celebrated throughout both artists’ discographies were non-existent in this fader faux pas but both bands made up for the production problems with intense delivery and enthusiasm.
Paul Banks strides to the stage mic, his look coming straight out of Don Henley’s ‘Boys of Summer’ – “that hair slicked back and those Wayfarers on baby”. He is joined on-stage by Daniel Kessler, and Sam Fogarino, and touring members Brandon Curtis and Brad Truax all donning head to toe black ensembles and a New York coolness.
They launch into the mammoth opener of‘Untitled with the first half of the set topped with classic cannonballs including C’mere, My Desire, Roland, and crowd favourite Obstacle 1.
The lighting techs excelled in elevating the show. Interpol lived in red lighting states throughout majority of their set with pops of blinding whites and reflections from the low-hanging mirror-ball behind Fogarino, echoing their 2002 debut Turn On The Bright Lights album title and cover art, and a palette that has been threaded through their entire discography of artwork.
The screen relay was set to black and white, making use of delays, fading transitions and slow mo effects for a real rock and roll vibe.
To a shifting blue light, Rest My Chemistry from the 2007 Our Love To Admire was a Pixies delight at the time of release. Live, the drifting melody of Kesslers guitar with Banks’ prosaic vocals is transportative.
Sitting largely in their first three albums, Interpol catered to their mostly middle-aged audience, offering only two recent tracks from last year’s The Other Side of Make-Believe, Into The Night and Toni. They closed out with a chorus of “Rosemary”’s for the highlight Evil, rounding out a quality set with The New and Slow Hands.
The impact of this monumental co-headline tour was not lost on either Banks or Bloc Party’s energetic frontman, Kele Okereke.
“It’s amazing being back in Australia. It’s been a while so it’s nice to be back with you after so long and sharing the stage with Bloc Party,” Banks acknowledged.
“Good evening Melbournia. We are Bloc Party from London and we are heaps excited to be here tonight. That’s the true,” Okereke quipped as a lead into You Should Know The Truth after slamming in with last year’s Alpha Games hit In Situ. Later in the set, the euphoric This Modern Love was also dedicated to their co-headliners; “They took us on our first ever tour so this song is for them.”
Kele Okereke’s vibrant green and black cardi, paired with a cream headband, only lasted three songs before being discarded. Bloc Party were here for one reason only.
“Let’s get this party started,” Okereke exclaimed as the eerie descending notes of Hunting For Witches launched.
Okereke kept the set lively with his contagious stage presence and general hype-attitude. From some cheeky quips to the stage crew “Thank you John that’s enough. He wants his own spin-off show. Now get out of here”, to pumping up the crowd with lines like “Let’s keep it rolling”, his infectious energy rolled into the crowd.
Offering epileptic strobing, Kettling from the 2013 FOUR brought some pop punk power whilst Song For Clay (Disappear Here) was prefaced by Paul Kelly classic Dumb Things.
The middle aged crowd of indie rock ‘n’ rollers were blessed back in 2018 with hearing the game changing debut Silent Album in full on Bloc Party’s last tour and it shows that the album is still as beloved. While only four songs made the bill this time around they were all met with explosive sing-alongs. Banquet was the first in the set with drummer Louise Bartle elevating the track with a smashing tempo building to a huge “I’m on fire” screaming match.
Okereke’s energy did not dwindle, incorporating fancy footwork into Different Drugs and playing with the vocal pedals on the ground. He also never missed a beat with the banter.
Ahead of the latest track from The High Life EP, Blue was introduced with a dig at our weather, “If I wanted a cold summer evening I may as well have stayed in London”.
The final leg of the set was one of epic proportions, not just for the song choices but for the audience’s liveliness, which had thus far ebbed and flowed throughout the evening, spiking for nostalgic songs. The brooding So Here We Are saw Bartle back on the fire, a hard task considering Matt Tong’s original drumming was intense and dynamic. Guitarist Russell Lissack came to the party in this section. Whilst a bit of an enigma on stage, he makes the guitar sing the heavenly builds, catapulting the revelatory, “I figured it out”.
Swapping to cutting guitar lines, Lissack led in a crowd chorus for Helicopter. There is nothing quite like 13,000 people singing the line “As if to say he doesn’t like chocolate”. Flux followed for a dance floor epic. Okereke hugs his guitar to his chest during the second verse before leading a clapping army from front to the back of the hill, leading perfectly into The Prayer.
Revealed as a song about a boy from St Kilda, the Interpol dedicated This Modern Love started off on a high note. A favourite all round, the build in the recorded version is monumental but live it fell flat in the crescendo. The pummelling “This modern love, breaks me” repetitive bridge lacked guts with Okereke singing down an octave. Not quite the euphoric moment experience of their last Australian tour but still the ultimate Bloc Party belter.
Ending on a high note was what Okereke referred to as a certified banger. “We have one more rocket in our pocket. Back home we call this one a banger but I don’t know what you call it in these parts. Do you like a banger Melbourne?”, he questioned, going out with the rambunctious Ratchet.
Whilst both Interpol and Bloc Party sets suffered sound-wise, both 2000’s giants both put on a show set to invigorate the indie dream and the crowd lapped it up.