Artists: Bloc Party, Noisettes, The Maccabees
Date: Thursday, June 7th, 2007
Venue: The Stone Pony (Asbury Park, NJ)
by Mike Mineo
The Stone Pony is forever known as perhaps the greatest rock venue in New Jersey. Living in the state for most of my life, I came to the odd realization that this was my first time ever stepping foot in the venue that was a major factor in kick-starting the careers of Springsteen, Southside Johnny, and Bon Jovi. Living in New Jersey, the lack of decent venues makes it a common practice to head into New York City for a show of any variety. The Stone Pony is truly the only distinguished venue in its vicinity, being a place that both artists and fans admire with similar ideologies. On a music blog in which the focus is independent music, Bloc Party needs hardly any introduction. Being staples of the modern post-punk revival, they are presently one of the most recognizable names on the scene. Though I was never an obsessive fan, I enjoyed both of their albums while finding the hype to be largely justified. Their debut, Silent Alarm, reached #3 on their native UK charts while receiving glowing review and a respectable national response. Their sophomore follow-up, A Weekend in the City, did even better on the charts while avoiding the expected “sophomore slump” entirely. Finally cracking into the prominent aspects of the US charts, the album reached #12 in the US and #2 in the UK. Being such an acclaimed act, Bloc Party is known more consistently to play at bustling festivals or large venues. When I heard that they were playing at The Stone Pony, I found it to be a great opportunity to see a band that supposedly played live with an impeccable amount of passion. It must have been the breeze of the ocean, which sat directly across the street, that attracted them to the Jersey shore, with the atmosphere complemented even more significantly as the show took place in the outside portion of The Stone Pony
I made the trip with a friend of mine, a very big fan of the Bloc. We both made plans to get there about an hour early and in doing so our general admission tickets gave us the opportunity to stand in the first row, literally ten feet away from the stage. The Maccabees and Noisettes were slated to open the show up; two new bands from the UK that continue to build fan bases with their debut albums. Stumbling out with the obvious representation that they were completely bombed after an illegal spree of some sort, the five members of The Maccabees were the first to take the stage. Writing a feature on them two months ago, I was familiar with the majority of songs that they played. Though several songs lacked the variation and boldness also found on their debut, the band’s presence for an opening act was admirable.
Lead singer Orlando Weeks rolled through the set with vocals that mimicked the album’s version precisely, jabbing at fictional drums and jawing along with the melodies in an attempt to form a righteous presence. Guitarist Felix White also displayed a humorous amount of energy, prancing around whilst making the expression of a fanatical serial killer, his eyes glaringly wide open with fanaticism and focused impetuosity. Guitarist Hugo White and bassist Rupert Jarvis were motionless for the most part while drummer Robert Dylan Thomas nearly collapsed at the end of the set. Leading singles “Latchmere” and “First Love” were the highlights, as the band responded enthusiastically with little instrumental flaws. The explosive chorus in “First Love” was a concise statement for the band’s excitable, though overused, sound. While they may be best represented as a singles band, they are still filled with enough sprightly animated youth to establish themselves as eminent fixtures of the art-rock scene.
Noisettes took the stage afterwards. While they were largely foreign to me being that I had only heard one song from them prior to the show, they certainly left a memorable impression. Singer and bassist Shingai Shoniwa stormed out with a colorful jumpsuit of sorts, immediately pleasing the fans with mentions of the beautiful beach and flowing beer. Upon their first couple of songs, she immediately establishing herself as a skilled performer possessing an extremely capable stage presence. However, howing off forms of awe-inspiring flexibility and movement even paled in comparison to her elaborate vocal range. On tracks like the highly touted “Scratch Your Name”, she yelped and sensually purred her way through an assortment of fiery songs. Guitarist Dan Smith was spot-on as well, impressing the crowd with an assortment of solos and progressions. It amazed me how this trio produced such a boisterous amount of organized sound with just three members. The three members of the band were a big surprise to me; I was surprised as to how they have avoided critical phrase, as it may have been the best opening act I have ever seen.
While both Shoniwa and Smith were impressive, drummer Jamie Morrison stole the show. He gave one of the most remarkable drumming performances I have ever seen, completely absorbed in his art of hammering away extremely involved percussive arrangements. In fact, he was so precise and invigorated that he was unintentionally breaking his drum sticks every few minutes or so. The venue staff had to periodically run on stage to fix the position of his drum kit. In the meantime, Morrison continued drumming consistently, ignoring the fact that his sticks were half broken and his drum set was out of place. He was absolutely phenomenal. Bloc Party’s drummer, Matt Tong, admired from the backstage steps in awe as Morrison captivated every individual at The Stone Pony. Noisettes were extremely impressive live performers who served as effective catalysts in igniting the growing anticipation for the main act, Bloc Party.
After lifelessly repetitive techno music embraced the speakers while the staff prepared for their entrance, Bloc Party finally took the stage to clamoring applause. They kicked it off traditionally with the first US single from A Weekend in the City, “I Still Remember.” Frontman Kele Okereke displayed his unique vocal ability in the same manner as in the studio, demonstrating his fairly new melodically incorporated approach found in A Weekend in the City. It was immediate from the first few songs that Bloc Party valued the importance of a professional performance. The members were all clean-cut and joking with one another on stage, smiling while rolling through fan favorites like “Hunting for Witches” and “Banquet” with ease. Okereke appeared to be very personable, sharing a story with the crowd about how he ran onto Jon Bon Jovi while bicycling on the beach earlier. “He told me he was a fan of the Bloc,” Okereke laughed. “I told him to fuck off.” While of course being a joke, it complemented the loose atmosphere where both the band and audience appeared to be at ease. Apart from a few young kids who, for some reason, thought that Bloc Party was the type of band suitable for mosh pits, the crowd was extemely receptive and Bloc Party put on a hell of a show.
After ten enjoyable songs, the four-piece came out for an expected encore, this time featuring two drum sets. Indeed, bassist Gordon Moakes and drummer Matt Tong both played drums simultaneously during “Sunday”. Surprisingly enough, even that was not the most unpredictable element of the show. Okereke introduced the next song by calling it one that only most “hardcore fans” would know, encouraging a cheer out of the obsessives in the audience. When the first chords rang out from their b-side, “The Once and Future King”, it was as if 99% of the crowd knew the song by heart, not just the die-hard enthusiasts. Honestly, I was surprised that the song did not make the cut for the album. It was one of the most enjoyable songs of the night. The best moment of the entire night came in the closer, the always thrilling “Helicopter”. To top it off, Okereke climbed off of the stage and made his way to the separation point between the crowd and the stage. Considering that I was seated next to a few attractive girls, I was not that surprised when Okereke made his way over. I do not mean to brag but, well, his hair felt pretty cool, I guess. Regardless, it was an excellent show that was complemented by two respectable opening acts with a main presentation that certainly lived up to the hype. I have heard several critics call Bloc Party one of the best live bands of their genre and after seeing them on Thursday, I am obliged to wholeheartedly agree.
Oh, for anyone who watched The Sopranos’ season finale: I laughed out loud when I heard the Noisettes play in AJ’s car. Prior to the show on Thursday I had barely even heard of the trio and now they have a spot on the most anticipated episodes of television history. Consider it no coincidence that the Noisettes played in Jersey a few days ago; their minor appearance in the Jersey-based drama brought a grin to my face.
None of the above photos were taken at this specific show.