Show Review: Kele with Does It Offend You, Yeah? and Innerpartysystem at The Mezzanine, 9/18/2010

by Gordon Elgart on September 20, 2010

Kele was all smiles

Hiatus is a dirty word when bands you love start throwing it around. Sometimes, the band returns, re-energized and ready for action. Other times the band returns, gets together for a little while, realizes the hiatus was the right move, and just breaks up. And then there are times when the band doesn’t come back at all. So when Bloc Party announced their hiatus, I was concerned. What would come of Kele Okereke, one of my favorite front men of all time? This weekend, I found out.

As this was a presentation of San Francisco’s Popscene, it of course started with Aaron Axelsen and Miles the DJ spinning some dance tunes to set the mood, and exactly an hour after the doors opened, the first band walked on stage. They’re called Innerpartysystem, and I did absolutely no research into them in advance, letting myself be completely surprised. And I freaking loved them!

The term I used was f'ing awesome

They are two guys playing all sorts of crazy stuff on synthesizers, some live, some programmed, plus a live drummer, all while singing insubstantial lyrics over their crazy dance grooves. They’re a massive wall of light and sound, and they definitely started off the night right. They were selling their major label CD for $5 at the merch table, a sure sign of a dropped band. The CD is a bit of a disappointment, like the live sound overproduced into something for radio. Skip the album; see the group live.

Next up was Does It Offend You, Yeah?, a group I once saw open for Bloc Party. I didn’t remember anything about them except that I liked them. So they walked out on stage, played an opening song, and then explained that their lead singer was sick and at home, and rather than skip playing the show, they were going to have to focus on the songs they could do without him. “We’re gonna have to stick to the bangers.” So this version of Does It Offend You Yeah? played mainly instrumental driving synth powered rockers, and they generated the seeds of a mosh pit. One particularly excited fellow crowd surfed  few times, and the lead guitarist jumped into the audience during “We Are Rockstars,” and I was spent after their energetic set.

Matty Derham, before his stage dive

My friend, a big fan of the band, was less enthusiastic, as she was very disappointed about the missing lead singer. The thing is, I’ll remember the band now, and I hadn’t before. This lead-singer, all-banger version of the band is more fun, more memorable, and more charming. Or at least I think they are. Like I said, I barely remembered them before.

Finally up to the stage was the night’s headliner, Kele Okereke, who started out the night by answering one question I always had about him. “Hello, my name is Kele,” he started with. That’s pronounced “Kelly.” Yeah, that’s the question. He came on stage wearing a Public Enemy t-shirt and a New York Yankees hat in matching pink and green, and his band began to clap the intro to “Walk Tall,” the opening number to his solo album, The Boxer.

The early part of the set had a surprising amount of singing along, as I had expected the crowd to stay fairly sedate between the expected Bloc Party covers, but they “brought it” right from the very beginning. Particularly vocal were these two women from England, who kept yelling out “ENGLAND” and trying to start a conversation with Kele, which they eventually did. They had a small chat about their hometown. This opened up the floor to future conversations, including one where he asked some overly loud girl to be quiet and listen, and another where he threatened to have someone kicked out for requesting “Your Visits Are Getting Shorter.”

When Kele announced that he was going to do some songs from another band he’s in, “The Black Eyed Peas,” the place went ballistic for reworked versions of “Blue Light,” “The Prayer,” and “One More Chance,” which was basically a medley of live remixes. It was fairly intense. The intensity stayed throughout the closing numbers of the main set, the single “Tenderoni” and the fist-pumping anthem, “Rise.”

Kele's intended set list. Read on to see how it changed!

As you see from the printed set list, the encore was to start with “Yesterday’s Gone,” but instead it started with Kele asking if there were any big Bloc Party fans in the house, and telling them that they were about to get a treat. And then he did “Your Visits Are Getting Shorter.” The guy who requested it was thrilled, and smiled throughout, and Kele asked him if he enjoyed it, too. It was a great moment, and one that really spoke to the warm feelings that were going on between band and artist. To request a relatively obscure Bloc Party track, one only on the deluxe edition of Intimacy, at a solo show, and then have the artist swap it out and actually play it? This was great, and made me like Kele even more.

So when he finished up the night with the great Bloc Party track “Flux,” the mood of the audience and artist was celebratory. With both Kele and his audience drenched in sweat, he went backstage, leaving the audience standing in a pile of empty drink cups. One of the DJs began to start spinning again, and with nothing left to see on stage, we all kept dancing. And why shouldn’t every show end with dancing?

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Photos by Jonathan Pirro

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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