A mostly-empty Orpheum greeted the teen/pre-teen duo of Smoosh. Admittedly, a lot of their appeal came from their young age: watching the drummer’s face light up in a smile several times per song after nailing some part or other, or noticing the pint-sized bass player—even younger than the two others—who added to a few songs before scampering offstage. Still, the band had enough twee-pop hooks to make their set a good one. I wish I could have been as creative with a keyboard or drum set at that age.
Meanwhile, Final Fantasy was dazzling, with Owen Pallett slowly building up a virtual orchestra of repeating violin parts with his looping effects pedals. It all worked to glorious effect as his plucks, scratches, and strums arranged themselves into delicate, immaculate compositions. His compatriot Steph added visual flair by projecting artsy drawings and cutouts on an old-fashioned overhead projector. A beautiful rendition of John Cale’s “Paris 1919” topped off a brilliant display of talent and ingenuity.
At long last, we were presented with the four scrawny lads of Bloc Party and their twangy, emotive repertoire. Matt Tong’s frenetic drumming anchored “Positive Tension”’s rhythmic art-punk, while Gordon’s bass work had a forceful impact on the blasting choruses of “Waiting for the 7:18” and “The Prayer”. Softer, swaying crooners like “Blue Light” and “Sunday” also played a major role in providing respite from the more frantic tunes.
It’s unfortunate that the band’s rapid ascendance has led them to employ some tactics that are a tad distasteful. Inviting kids up onto the stage for a big dance party at the end of “Helicopter” didn’t seem to suit the song. Frontman Kele was constantly eliciting cheers from the crowd, as if to prove to himself that his popularity hasn’t quite run out yet. But despite the populist antics, there were musical high points around every corner, with “Like Eating Glass” feeling truly epic and “She’s Hearing Voices” turning into a stomping, show-stopping rager.
Sure, this much-anticipated show had its flaws, but the intensity those indie heroes put on display was thrilling and energizing in a way that few among the sold-out crowd are going to forget any time soon.