Ezra Furman opens the eclectic evening the Hollywood Bowl toots as, “trailblazers, heroes, and rebels.” Furman rocks a lovely flowing red dress, a shining strand of pearls, and curled blue-green hair. The audience screams “ow ow!” loudly when he hollers, “I’m just a little piece of trash, somebody dropped in the street,” off of his hit “Restless Year”. After a brief pause, Bob Mould takes the stage and revs the crowd with his three decades of performance experience saluting classic rock’n’roll. During his 2012 hit, “The Descent,” he mounts his drummer’s platform and jumps off backwards, singing and strumming the whole time. His vivacious energy warms the stadium for Bloc Party.
Lead singer Kele Okereke stands in the center of the Hollywood Bowl with the stage’s rings of light radiating bright neon colors like the astroid belts of Saturn. He sports his hair short except for a patch of dreads on the right side of his scalp near his forehead. While he sings madly he rocks his head back and forth nudging the dreads slightly. Deep breaths in between his fits of fierce lyric delivery are evident through his eccentrically patterned button-down t-shirt. He seems angry and in the moment. But then, when the first round of applause is given, he pauses. Cool as ice he says, “You’re too kind, Hollywood.”
Bloc Party revels in ordered chaos. Though many of the songs from the evening come from their new album Hymns released in January, 2016, the band cycles back to their rioting “Helicopter” and the forever popular “Banquet.” Playing to a nearly sold-out crowd the frenzy of the upbeat and anxious songs are coupled with ravaging strobe lights like sharp pistons of colored light aimed at the crowd. They are overstimulating, perhaps a distraction that many are falling for.
After sitting back in ones seat watching the intense spectacle, its a relief for each break between songs. During the biggest hits small pockets scattered about the Bowl stand and dance to no specific beat. They raise their arms and scream. It’s a nostalgic love for the group. They are Snapchatting the classics to say they saw it live. They stick out like sore thumbs while the majority of the audience is glued to their seats with no foreseeable plans to stand.
A few times the energy is brought down as new songs from Hymns such as “Different Drugs” and “The Love Within” fill the outdoor auditorium with weighted and clunky neo-soul that veers from the bands founding sound of rock ‘n’ roll and potent electronica. Life long fans are addled, only cheering loudly when they recognize the first hectic seconds of a song. Suddenly, the concert seems to stop half an hour too early, only forty-five minutes in. The stage dark except a few blue streamers of light. “That can’t be it?” some spectators say out loud, confused. Early birds begin leaving in droves eager to avoid the hassles of getting home from stacked parking and surged ride shares. Sections of the crowd call for an encore. A select few loudly, rowdily. The rest sit content, in peaceful protest, waiting.
The band comes back eight minutes later for what Okereke calls, “round two.” There is applause but the crowd is not ecstatic or particularly loud. They are glad and continue sitting while Bloc Party finish their set with a mixed bag of old and new songs including “Helicopter” and “This Modern Love” that ends abruptly when it hits the strict noise ordinance and ends promptly at 10 p.m.
File photo by Raymond Flotat