with Strange Talk and The Touch

It's never a good feeling when you walk into a venue when the first support act is already playing, only to find yourself being one of two people on the club's dance floor. For a venue the size of HQ especially, it was more than awkward to watch a band like The Touch perform to a smattering of people in the joint. The band, Adelaide favourites, didn't let the lack of audience get to them as they bounded through a set full of their usual fun and energetic tunes. At least by the end of the set, a handful more punters braved it onto the floor and seemed to be mildly enthused about the prospect of live music.


I should probably mention that the last time I saw tonight's headliner perform, it was at last year's Parklife festival; with a few thousand sweaty people cramming in front of one stage to see successful solo artist and Bloc Party frontman, Kele Okereke sing. You wouldn't be able to tell that the same person was due to hit the stage at HQ in a few hours though, taking a look about the place. While there'd been considerable hype about Kele's Splendour in the Grass sideshow building, my guess was the reasonably dear ticket prices plus other shows on around town were tonight's main hindrances. Either way, I couldn't shake the feeling that things were only going to become more awkward.


…Which they sort of did when Melbourne's Strange Talk had their turn at warming up the small crowd. This set marked the fourth time I've seen the band perform live and every time they'll fallen short of blowing my mind. Thing is, I wanted to like them, so every time I got another opportunity to see them perform, I was ready to give them another shot. However tonight I realised that it probably wasn't going to happen. Stephen Docker gave yet another performance based on his stage moves and throwing himself too far into the delivery of his songs. Channelling the likes of Tim and Jean and even Gypsy & The Cat, Strange Talk came off tonight bland at best. Trying to rouse audience attention and praise fell flat for the most part and it became obvious, at least to me, that the band were doing more of a run through of a set list rather than an ambitious and unique performance. Throwing in the well known Eskimo Boy and Is It Real failed to produce the much needed momentum Strange Talk needed and they wound up cutting the set short due to ‘technical difficulties'. Yep, I'm sure that's all it was.


As the band packed up their own gear and Kele's roadies came out to finalise their own stage set up, people began to fill the immediate area and there was finally a buzz going round. When Kele and his band entered after a short while, the crowd roared with applause as he casually made his way to the mic stand, sporting a shaved head, L.A Lakers jumper and his trademark grin. The bass from the percussion was overpowering and at times it was hard to hear Kele's vocals, even though I was as close as I could be to him without actually being onstage.


One thing I noticed as I stared up at Kele as he belted out tunes tonight was how much of a great frontman he actually is. Communicating with the audience and bravely coming down to the level of those squished in the front to give an intimate rendition of This Modern Love, Kele made sure he connected with almost everyone on some level. The crowd seemed to especially appreciate songs like Everything You Wanted, Tenderoni and Rise, off Kele's debut record, making it onto the set list, while a Bloc Party medley (Blue Light/The Prayer/One More Chance) early on in the set pandered to both long-time followers and newbies.


Interestingly, the performance of a new track entitled Stress was a special moment of the night, with some deep dub step influences rippling through from the stage into the crowd. Letting us know that tonight may be the last time we saw Kele for the next few years, the final half of the show came to a close with a fun delivery of Ready To Go, Kele's collaboration with Martin Solveig.


With an artist like Kele, you can never quite tell which way a show will go. An artist adamant on producing a show which demonstrates his talent as a solo artist while not completely ignoring his place in one of the most successful British bands of the 2000s, Kele entertained both sets of fans without making any outlandish promises of what's to come in the future or hinting at the much rumoured Bloc Party reunion. Tonight was about him and his crowd, something that both understood perfectly.

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