LIVE REVIEW: Wasteland Festival – Bloc Party, Circa Waves, Mystery Jets @ O2 Academy, Newcastle (12.07.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Bloc Party by Amelia Read

When, just two days before the opening night of Wasteland Festival, the promoter announced a sudden venue change and the total cancellation of Richard Ashcroft’s Sunday night show citing “logistical issues” and a social media vanishing act that Harry Houdini would have been proud of, you could be forgiven for thinking Newcastle was about to get its own Fyre-upon -Tyne Festival. It’s not like we haven’t been here before; Bonobo’s Live from Times Square gig was moved at short notice from an outdoor venue to the O2 Academy due to “unforeseen and uncontrollable” circumstances last summer and was the dampest of squibs as a result. Naturally the 2,000 or so punters (estimates that Spillers Wharf was earmarked as a 4,000+ capacity might explain some of those mysterious logistical issues) huddled in to the Academy were baying to be entertained.

Mystery Jets bore some of the brunt of revised stage times, getting a mere half an hour to rattle through their hits. Playing a pocket-sized retrospective peppered with newer material to a lukewarm, half-full and sceptical crowd was never going to be easy but they did a more than amicable job.

Circa Waves formed the unlikely filling in a noughties nostalgia sandwich and for me came up short. No doubt the boys can play but, pop-banger T-Shirt Weather aside, it felt like a set brimming with good quality album tracks and little else.

By the time Bloc Party made it to the stage at 9:30pm the doors to the Academy had been open for three hours. By anyone’s standards that’s a long time to be inside one venue before your headline act has even played a note, but as soon as Kele Okereke and band struck up all seemed forgiven. Nostalgia is a great leveller and there was plenty of that around; large swathes of the crowd could well have been extras in a horrible Skins reboot where most of the cast now work in mundane office jobs trying to afford extortionate rent.

I’ve always been more than a little apprehensive about album anniversary shows, so scarcely do albums and live shows have the same cadence, and Okereke himself has been dismissive of them in the past. This is aside from the well documented and acrimonious departures from the band since 2005’s seminal Silent Alarm. Perhaps playing all the songs off an album in a different order is an interesting ploy to combat this, perhaps it’s a cop out. Regardless, it’s one which sees two of the most iconic indie disco tracks of my years, Helicopter and Banquet, saved ‘til the end of the ‘Silent Alarm in Full (but not in order)’ set. More predictably though, the encore is wall to wall bangers: Flux, Hunting For Witches, I Still Remember, to name but a few.

In the cold light of day the potential for disaster might just have made the gig something special. Perhaps people were determined to make it extraordinary in spite of all the difficulties, perhaps it was the fact the audience felt they needed to justify the ticket price, or perhaps it was the rain coming down as people entered the shelter that Spillers Wharf would not have afforded… but walking back onto the street it was hard to imagine hearing those songs which evoke memories of sweat dripping from nightclub walls in any other setting.

Stockholm Syndrome? Maybe. But great fun nonetheless.

Bloc Party by Amelia Read


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