First onstage was up-and-coming UK crooner Oscar. The shaggy-haired ingenue is quickly becoming a rising star thanks to his hook-filled songwriting, not to mention his warm voice which at times can be identical to fellow Brit Morrissey‘s. And though the music does take some cues from new wave like The Smiths and The Cure, it’s most similar to melodic 90’s Brit-Pop like Manic Street Preachers and turn of the millennium acts like British Sea Power. One standout was single “Beautiful Words”, with its soaring sing-a-long chorus and heart-on-sleeve lyrics. Another was a song dedicated to broken iPhones, appropriately titled “Breaking my Phone”.
Next up were a band from just across the border- New York’s MS MR. Although they’re best known so far for the ethereal, shambling single “Hurricane”, the set was anything but downcast. In fact only two songs with lower end BPMs made it into the setlist, and those were only so “we won’t pass out”, to quote producer Max Hershenow. Every other song was a high energy synth pop gem during which singer Lizzy Plapinger would dance up a storm- or perhaps a hurricane?
Headlining were indie veterans Bloc Party. You’d be forgiven for thinking it would be a serious affair; the band made a name on tense post-punk, angular math rock guitar riffs, and charged lyrics. There was no shortage of those, but the band themselves were intensely casual and good-spirited. Singer Kele Okereke was all smiles and jokes, even when a scuffle broke out during a ballad. “I noticed there was some pushing activity happening near the front there during that song,” he quipped “that’s not a song to push people to. This one is.” He then launched into the band’s 2007 hit “Hunting for Witches”. The frontman has developed quite a set of pipes on him- 11 years ago he was all yelps and now regularly slips into a velvety croon well suited for the band’s current material.
The rest of the set was fairly balanced between songs from their five albums, though there were a bit more from this year’s Hymns. 2005’s breakthrough single “Banquet” was sandwiched directly in the middle of the show, in a sped up version that made the already tense song even more frantic. The energy from it was in fact so intense that the venue had to turn on a few fans to mitigate the heat.
Two encores with some more Silent Alarm hits capped off the night, leaving the Phoenix hotter on the inside than the weather outside; a remarkable feat in this heat wave.