Walking to the Green Stage on Saturday afternoon from the Red Marquee to see Bloc Party perform I was struck by this thought:
"Man, he sounds like Robert Smith."
And the more I listened to lead singer Kele Okereke as I moved slowly through the throngs of people moving in the same direction as me, the more R. Smith-y he sounded. It had never struck me when listening to their albums "Silent Alarm" or "Weekend In The City" and I was dumfounded that I had never made the connection. Maybe it was the clean sound and vocal mix of the Green Stage, maybe it was the fact that I have those albums but rarely trot them out, or maybe it was because that got me thinking about The Cure's fantastic two and half hour headline set in the same spot at last year's Fuji. Whatever...
The band played a good selection of songs from the aforementioned albums as the sky, that had cleared slightly after drowning Travis fans, gathered its humid cloudy self back together and started to rain again. Really rain. The crowd wasn't that affected as they headed down closer to the stage, and jumped up and down in the wet.
"We haven't played together in over five months," Okereke seemed to apologize from the stage about a quarter of the way through their set, after versions of "Song For Clay" and "Positive Tension" that seemed stilted. So he opted to talk with the crowd as guitarist Russell Lissack and bassist Gordon Moakes re-grouped.
"How are you Fuji Rock?" he asked to each area of the audience, getting hundreds of responses from many British fans within earshot of me, "We're from the British Isles, so we're used to this kind of weather."
After playing two more songs, though, things seemed to go south for the band. As they tried to launch into "Mercury", their new single, sound problems set in. "Mercury" has a stuttering vocal delay as part of the percussion, in concert with some keyboards floating over top and drums syncopated to the rhythm. The mic cut out and Kele had to switch, then had problems with his in-ear monitor. The lead vocal levels on the Green Stage dove up and down, from slightly too loud to way too quiet. All the while drummer Matt Tong kept going completely out of sync. They eventually got it working and plowed through the song, but the damage was done. While the fans at the front and those huddled around the beer tents stayed whole heartedly with them, others stated to fritter away, off to see The Vines or Ego-Wrappin'.
Another apology from stage, "Oh well, we'll play it better for you next time."
Shogenai for the crowd, but when they do get that song down live it going to kick some seriously rhythmic ass. Next time.
Reported by Jeff Richards (2008.07.26 / 14:29)