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Story and photos by Matt SchwenkeRiding a wave from their 2005 debut Silent Alarm that propelled them to a continent-hopping tour in support of their 2007 followup A Weekend In The City, Bloc Party's arrival at the Pabst Theatre caught the band in the thick of a busy tour schedule and marked the first time the British indie rockers stepped foot in Milwaukee. Frontman Kele Okereke used the seemingly obligatory reference to "Laverne & Shirley" early on in an effort to connect with the crowd, but it would be a reference to the Green Bay Packers' Brett Favre that simultaneously drew the most cheers from the crowd and lowered expectations for the show-- drummer Matt Tong was suffering from the flu but joked that if Favre could play 16 straight seasons, he could play one show.
Tong and company seemed no worse for wear as "Waiting For The 7.18," from the new album, rose to exhilarating heights upon Tong's snappy break beats and with Okereke's fragile falsetto, guitarist Russel Lissack's synth injections and bassist Gordon Moakes' pulsing lows in fine working order. "This Modern Love," from the debut album, would follow a similar pattern as the band blurred the line between sweet and danceable, and aggressive and powerful. In "The Prayer," Okereke sang "give me grace and dancing feet and the power to impress," and the tune, with its thunderous drum samplings, shimmering guitars and elegantly raw vocals, appeared to be a response to what Okereke was asking for. But, in the usually fast and hard "Little Thoughts," an awkward start lead into a lethargic strut that wasn't redeemed until the last section of the song. With some time to rest during the measured and pining opening of "Uniform," Tong was spot on in the songs extreme shifts in intensity and later helped push the crowd into chanting along to the most driving tune of the evening, "Like Eating Glass."
An encore performance of "Sunday" let Okereke's voice and lyrics shine while Moakes hopped behind an additional drum set to add to the gentle thump of the well-spaced tune. Asking the crowd to be "a little bit more naughty," Okereke had the crowd chanting in "She's Hearing Voices" and later walked deep into the crowd to join in the danceable punk mixings. Proclaiming it would not be the last time they visit Milwaukee, Okereke announced the last song would be the time to let out any remaining aggression, and "As If To Say" let out a blistering display that demanded just that. While some of the precise technical attack was missing from the recorded versions of their songs, Bloc Party's sheer energy, and the ability to combine happy and sad, dance and rock in the same breath, provided catharsis not often found.
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