Ten years ago, with the superclubs in economic freefall, it felt as if commercial dance music was in its death throes. But now that we’re halfway through 2010, the lure of the dance floor has become all-consuming and unstoppable. UK rappers led the way (Dizzee Rascal, Tinchy Stryder, Roll Deep), US R&B stars followed suit (Usher, Kelis, Kelly Rowland), and now even indie rock’s front men seem to be jumping on board.
With Bloc Party placed on hold for the indefinite future, Kele Okereke has seized the opportunity to re-invent himself. “There’s always been a dance element to our music” was every indie band’s mantra in the early Nineties, and perhaps the wheel is now about to spin full circle. To underline this shift in direction, Kele opted to perform his synth-heavy, hour long set in a club setting, setting up stage at Gatecrasher instead of Rock City.
As a live music venue, Gatecrasher doesn’t quite convince. It felt odd to be watching a band at ten in the evening, to a crowd that hadn’t spent the past few hours warming up on the main floor. And it didn’t help that the performers were entirely lit from the back of the stage, cast in silhouette between slender columns of light that twinkled prettily, without offering much in the way of useful illumination. The set-up worked well enough for the first couple of songs, but after a while it became frustrating to be denied the chance to look the singer full in the face.
Although Kele has yet to equal Bloc Party in terms of chart success, the new songs were enthusiastically received. Everything You Wanted was an early highlight, and even the crowd-pleasing mid-set medley of three Bloc Party tracks (Blue Light, The Prayer, One More Chance) was eclipsed by the storming rendition of Tenderoni which followed. Kele’s bellowing vocal style didn’t always suit the more intensely rhythmic music – it needed more subtlety, syncopation and grace – but the more jarring “Arthur Mullard salutes the magic of David Guetta” moments were counterbalanced by a pleasing sense of new possibilities being explored, and of rule books being torn up. Perhaps there’s still room on that dance floor for a few more converts yet.