Thursday, September 9, 2010

Live Review - Kele @ Webster Hall

The last time New York City saw Kele Okereke was in early 2008 when he was wrapping his second trip to the US with his other band, Bloc Party. Over two years ago when fans saw Kele he was a slender, shy musician that held his guitar for dear life and sang his songs that made everyone in the room go nuts. Last night was a different Kele, it was a different sound, a different band and most of all a different look. Gone were the skinny jeans and tight T-shirts that added extra weight to his small frame and in was a Detroit Pistons basketball jersey, baggy jeans and a full frame singer that looks as if he spent the last two years in a gym working out rather than a recording studio. New York City and fans on his current tour are witnessing the metamorphosis of their favorite singer. Kele, in support of his solo debut, Boxer (which may explain his new physique) is plugging into clubs and banging away with a small backing band of drummers and programmers that are bringing his electronic sound to life.
For Kele to be dabbling into electro is not shocking to Bloc Party fans worldwide due to the fact that the band’s last release, Intimacy, was a punk meets electronic album. What is shocking, aside from his look, is how alive Kele is on stage. Sure, he would jump around with his guitar in Bloc Party, but there is a different level of confidence and connectivity he has now. His bravado must be through the roof knowing that everyone in the room is there to see him and see what he can pull off. While Boxer maybe a mediocre record at best but a daring attempt for him on his solo debut, it sounds as if it were meant to be heard live, in a club with a sound system that will make you feel the bass in your chest.
While the songs from Boxer would get the audience’s attention, it would be his “old songs” as he would call them from “that other band that I am in” that would get everyone in the room going completely insane. As he burned through his set list, Kele pleased the crowd with a Bloc Party medley that featured “Little Thoughts / The Prayer / One More Chance,” the beauty about the medley was that the songs were not played straight, they were remixed and reinterpreted live right on that stage and was something so organic that it shows the man knows what he is doing. He kept the momentum going by jumping into the crowd and crowd-surfing a bit during his single “Tenderoni.” While the set lasted just under an hour and the crowd begged for more, Kele did most of Boxer and closed with the Bloc Party B-side of “Flux,” which was a great send off into the night. While everyone’s legs sure would feel like Jell-O the next morning, everyone knew it was well worth it.
On tour with Kele were his friends and fellow UK electro band, Does It Offend You, Yeah. The band who is also making a return to the States and much like their friend Kele are also not the same band that was in the US just two years ago supporting Bloc Party and Nine Inch Nails. Since the departure of multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, Morgan Quaintance, the band has added Matty Derham on guitar and vocals and Chloe Duveaux on bass. However, singer James Rushent was not at the show and was forced to stay home in England and miss the tour due to falling very ill, leaving his band to hit the road without him. Yet, Does It Offend You does not disappoint. Having seen the band before with their original line-up, this new incarnation and even without Rushent is still as fun and energetic as ever. Sticking mainly to the electronic tracks that do not require Rushent’s vocals, the band’s 45 minute set featured a few new songs from their forthcoming record, Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You. Once this band returns properly to the US to support that album, they are not an act to be missed!
Opening the show was the only American electronic act and newcomers Interparty System. The band’s style of heavy beats, live drumming and vocals reminded me as if Andy Bell of Erasure fronted LCD Soundsystem. The sonic blend of three men working on stage and getting the party started was not only entertaining but also had them gaining new fans as their performance was one to be admired.