All photos: Nell Alk for FABRIC
September 10, 2010
Kele Okereke was all smiles Wednesday night, performing with a three-piece backup band before a not-totally-stuffed Webster Hall. The lead singer of Britain’s Bloc Party, the handsome man, dressed in a Pistons jersey (#33 to be precise), cargo shorts and canvas sneaks, has gone solo – for the time being anyway. Touring in support of his debut release, entitled The Boxer, which dropped in June, Okereke took the stage by storm. And by the end of the night, his dance-pop record, 10 tracks in length, translated seamlessly to live venue version.
Okereke addressed the audience warmly, flattering fans by saying this was the show to which he was most looking forward. “So, let’s get this party started! Come on!” He followed this with modest (and gradually more daring) moves, hands in fists, feet marching in place, behind wiggling whilst the music kicked in. After all, as he revealed in an interview with New York Magazine, one of his 2010 resolutions was to dance more. That and take up piano and boxing. The first I cannot attest to, but the latter proved an evident source of inspiration. Hence the record’s name.
While the show seemingly failed to sell out, the performance proved a success. Apart from going deaf, there were no negatives. The crowd went wild. If the speakers weren’t shaking the entire room, we were. It was an all-out assault, a reciprocal love affair between icon and icon-worshippers. Okereke is shy, reserved when it comes to discussing his personal life. But, as a vocal god he doesn’t hold back. And what range he has, transitioning from baritone to falsetto faster than you can say “stage-dive.” Which he also endeavored to do, however awkwardly. (Perhaps, it was thanks to the Jäger.)
He started his set a tad after 10P.M.. This included an encore around 10:45 and, much to everyone’s surprise, a second encore, “a rare, rare, rare one,” as he phrased it. It wouldn’t have come as such a shock had the lights not come up and he and his instrumentalists not taken bows, departing, ticketholders dispersing. But, at 11:05, they returned with one more: “Your Visits Are Getting Shorter,” a Bloc Party track, one among four he included throughout the evening. Standout songs included throwbacks “Flux,” “Blue Light,” and “The Prayer,” as well as “Everything You Wanted” and “Tenderoni,” both Boxer numbers, the second the leading single.
Gauging by the overall response, it seems unlikely Okereke as simply Kele will have any trouble amassing a cult following. This guy’s got the chops. He not only has a history with the crème de la crème of contemporary alternative rock, he also has this ridiculously solid disc, a romp of a record to get down to. And don’t think he forgot to pay homage to those who helped make it possible. He even dedicated a song to his gifted producer, Alex Epton, also known as XXXChange. With no hint of hubris, the humble Kele Okereke is apt to continue along this same smiling line. He’s even moving to Manhattan come the end of 2010. You can bet by that time Webster won’t be scrambling to fill the space.
Kele with opener Does It Offend You, Yeah?