Bloc Party + whenyoung + Liz Lawrence @ o2 Academy, 13th July 2019

If you are a keen reader of music magazines and blog posts you may have read recently that indie is a dying genre, one that had its peak in the mid-00s only to fade away from its newfound fortune across this current decade. This evening was set to pay homage to (in my opinion) one of the greatest albums of that decade and a record that probably helped the momentum of the noughties rise of indie-pop bands. Tonight did more than that it showed that indie is very much alive and kicking albeit in a more underground and possibly somewhat nostalgic way. 

The first support came from the very talented, and I believe local singer/songwriter Liz Lawrence. She made a fantastic sound considering it was just her vocal, guitar and a laptop providing a backing track.  Her music wouldn’t feel out of place on the playlist of BBC Radio 6 Music. She reminded me of Tanya Donnelly from Belly with elements of Courtney Barnett. This was an excellent first act on, she provided enjoyable, easy listening with a bit of grit. 

Primary support came from Dublin band whenyoung. Their debut album Reasons to Dream was released earlier this year and has been gaining momentum since. When you read up on this band, they’ve actually had a whirlwind of a time since their first tracks came out with support coming from the likes of Bono amongst others. It also says that they are a trio, but they definitely were not a trio on stage tonight. I like their music, it reminded me of 80s rock but with a hint of indie-pop reminiscent of bands like The Killers. The most significant impact came from their final track, Never Let Go, which is one of those indie floor fillers waiting to happen. These are going to grow without any doubt, and I’d suggest you catch them when they return to Birmingham later this year. 

Silent Alarm brings back a whole host of memories from my first ever DJ sets at Wolverhampton’s longest-serving indie night Blast Off!; to falling in love with my wife and getting married. It holds a lot of significance and tonight needed to live up to how I felt about the band and this record. There isn’t any doubt that this album soundtracked a generation thanks to its fast tempo and uplifting mood, and with a sell-out crowd of a certain age (most of which were probably teenagers or in their early 20s when the record came out in 2005) this was set to be a great night. 

Of course, you could be critical and make suggestions like “it’s not the original line up so how can it have the impact you want” but actually the new line up adds a fresh take on the band’s sound. They bounced off each other really well. Of course, Russell Lissack’s unique guitar sounds continues to stand apart as a key feature, but new(ish) drummer Louise Bartle delivers drumming equally as strong as the original drumming from Matt Tong. 

It was a refreshing move playing the album in its entirety, but in reverse, it worked on so many levels. If you don’t know the album; the singles and more danceable tracks happen quite early on so playing it in reverse enabled the band to build to a crescendo of dance floor mayhem. The crowd were being primed and carefully adjusted to what was to be unleashed. 

I have to say that the single spotlight from behind on frontman Kele Okereke during opening track Compliments was beautiful and sent shivers down my spine; with follow up track Plans encouraging that sing along to “I’ve got a taste for blood!”; and Luno quickly lifting the mood of the crowd with that early hint of a mosh pit. Speaking from a DJ’s point of view It was like that early doors setlist that peaked at a perfectly poised moment ready to take the crowd to the next level. Aside from the singles Banquet and Helicopter, for personal reasons I was looking forward to one track in particular; So Here We Are was delivered to perfection, heightening the crowd and culminating in rapturous applause,  if it didn’t leave you with goosebumps then I would be stunned. 

Saturday nights are designed for that party atmosphere, and the night was just getting started. I forgot how much I loved the live delivery of Price of Gasoline; so much passion and energy in the politically charged track. The confetti cannon at the end of This Modern Love was a brilliant touch amplifying the elegance of the instrumental in the tracks closing minutes before the crowd echoing “Throw your arms around me”. You could tell that the band wanted more from the crowd. Kele stated that they have “Had some really fun nights in Birmingham over the years, and I’ve got a feeling tonight is going to be one of them.” As well as repeatedly questioning and goading them by saying “Am I gonna be wrong!?” before launching into She’s Hearing Voices; its warm red lighting and furious singalong vocal helping to fuel the crowds’ frenzy even further. You could still feel the restless desire of the crowd was still to be satisfied. When you consider the lyrics of Banquet and how it’s about power and domination it was quite right that a storm was unleashed at this time, with no real way of getting away from the circles and mosh pits and this didn’t let off until the end of Like Eating Glass.

The encore consisted of a few classics from their other releases, although interestingly there was nothing from Four or 2016’s album Hymns. 2004’s Little Thoughts was an unexpected and pleasant surprise as the band have been playing Tulips since starting this tour. Tonight was all about 2005’s Silent Alarm but it was great to see indie club anthem and still a floor-filler Flux making an appearance in the encore.

When you name an album about an early detection system for earthquakes, based on a feeling that it has a sense of disquiet, it was always a perfect recipe for teenage angst and restlessness. That angst has grown up, and yes indie as a genre may well not be in the same place that it was in the mid-00s, but the restless desires of the fan that grew up on this diet of futuristic guitar sounds and dynamic drumming, is still very much there. It was dance music for people that really didn’t like dance music and tonight Bloc Party enabled us to forget about nostalgia and live in that moment.

Set List

Every Time Is The Last Time




So Here We Are

Price of Gasoline

The Pioneers

This Modern Love

She’s Hearing Voices

Blue Light


Positive Tension


Like Eating Glass


Two More Years 

Little Thoughts

Hunting for Witches 

The Prayer




Reviewer: Imran Khan

Photographer: Stephanie Colledge


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