The last twelve months can only be described as absurd for Rat Boy. From making songs in his own bedroom to playing in relatively large venues across the country, one can only ponder what 2016 holds for the Essex teenager. Their set at this years NME Awards Tour kicked of with most recent single, ‘move,’ a groovy tune which encompasses a catchy chorus as well as a more upbeat sound in comparison to earlier songs. Rat Boy, who’s real name is Jordan Cardy, instigated crowd surges and mosh pits throughout a half an hour set which included crowd favourites such as ‘Sign On’ and ‘Fake ID.’
We must not underestimate the potential of this band. As part of the usual diversity of bands which comprise each yearly edition of the NME Tour, Rat Boy were arguably the most impressive act of the class of 2016.
Next came Drenge who are known not only for being loud but also for their reckless guitar riffs and great lyricism. They recently followed up their debut album with the release of Undertow, which many saw as a diverse development on their original sound.
It was clear from the start that Drenge were a well practised band with an intriguing sound, though to some extent the entire set merged into one; in this instance the brothers were far more diverse on album rather than in front of a live audience. However, songs such as ‘Bloodsports’ and ‘Fuckabout’ were well greeted. As a result of such a reception, and an effortless ability to induce a frenzy among the crowd, it is clear that the band are not only well liked but have great potential to force their way into the higher echelons of the indie world in years to come.
A lot has changed in the six years since Bloc Party last played Rock City: not only did they release new album ‘Hymns’ in January, they are also sporting an entirely different line up. Despite all this, lead singer Kele Okereke seemed excited about an era which can almost be defined as the band’s second coming. Such an excitement became obvious during their headline performance at the Nottingham leg of this year’s NME Awards Tour.
After a subtle entrance onto the stage and minor problems with instruments, the band finally kicked off with ‘The Good News’ and ‘Only He Can Heal Me,’ two songs which instigated a subtle, lacklustre beginning to the set as opposed to mass excitement. However, this may have been deliberate on Okereke’s behalf, clearly demonstrating the creative, transformed sound of Bloc Party’s new line up. Ultimately this difference became even more obvious as ‘Banquet’ was met by flying cups of stale beer and the mimicking chants of the recognisable guitar riffs, once more a distinguishable reaction to what met the opening two songs.
Gordon Moakes and Matt Tong’s departure from the band gave Okereke the ideal opportunity to change the face of Bloc Party once and for all; it was a poignant decision to continue and evolve the band. Louise Bartle and Justin Harris, drummer and bassist respectively, joined at a time of evolution and themselves shaped the theoretically new sound of the band. When ‘The Love Within’ was released as the first single since the band’s return back in October, it was met with a range of responses from adoration to being described as “a children’s tribute to Soulwax.”
“A lot has changed in the six years since Bloc Party last played Rock City”
However, no such trepidation was obvious tonight. Whilst it was clear that a lot of the crowd were euphoric during the older songs, the new songs from ‘Hymns’ were being gratefully embraced. Considering its initial reception, ‘The Love Within’ was met with great cheers and even a sing along during a chorus which can only be described as an anthem of positivity. It was the encore which truly bought Rock City alive, perhaps their best known songs ‘Helicopter’ and ‘Ratchet’ helped to raise the intensity of the crowd as many surfed their way to the barrier.
For a band which has been seemingly reincarnated, it is unsurprising that initially Bloc Party’s sound was met with some disappointment. However, as time has gone on fans are slowly embracing the new foundations of the band, tonight’s performance at Rock City proving that within time Bloc Party shall return to the much higher stages they once took in their stride.
Image: Paul Hudson via Flickr
Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham’s IMPACT Magazine.