The intimacy of Billboard is what makes it one of Melbourne’s most endearing live venues. The fact there is a nice vantage point for the short and tall among us (although not you, 6” 2’ blonde girl with tattoos who stood right in front of us!) to see the main stage is just one of the reasons any show at this esteemed venue sets the night up for something special to happen.
Kicking off the night’s proceedings was Melbourne’s own Strange Talk. The high energy foursome were in good spirits from the onset dropping “Eskimo Boy” early in their set before closing with “Climbing Walls” – both tracks lifted from their recently released eponymous EP. These two tracks alone made it more than worthwhile for the early birds who arrived before the masses (shout out to Bo for the expert Shazam usage).
Fresh off his appearance at Splendour in the Grass, Kele (Okereke of Bloc Party fame) emerged from the darkness with full band in tow. Keeping with the theme of his album title, Kele arrived looking every bit like a boxer ready to enter the ring. Sporting a shaved head, LA Lakers sweater, Adidas shorts and some classic Nike hi-tops, it was obvious that this was going to be a high energy set.
Opening with the ace “Walk Tall” from 2010’s The Boxer, the crowd was amped as Kele aptly rhymed “I don’t know what you’ve been told, but this starts now, walk tall, walk tall”. The Lakers sweater was quickly removed, revealing a ripped upper body in a black sleeveless gym top just as the supercharged “On the Lam” kicked into high gear. The track is entirely better for the use of live instrumentation and it’s also the first opportunity to witness the front man’s killer dance moves. The boy can move with the best of ‘em!
One of the most impressive aspects of the show was Kele’s genuine appreciation for, and interaction with, the crowd. He accepted a fur hat (fake of course), which was still being worn as he launched into the heartfelt mass sing-a-long “Everything You Wanted”, and then displayed a comedic side as he introduced “Unholy Thoughts” – a song written in Australia after an incident where Okereke thought he met the devil – by having a laugh about the oft downside of overindulging in substances that perhaps one shouldn’t!
As if the now sufficiently warmed up crowd needed something to push them over the edge, the main man declared “this is something for the old fans”. “Blue Light” received the dance remix treatment to stunning effect as the crowd were more than prepared to groove along. Next up was “The Prayer”, which morphed into “One More Chance” as the Bloc Party back catalogue received a nice work out.
The place was sufficiently fizzed up after some Bloc Party reminiscing but the lid popped off as the drums kicked in for “Tenderoni”. With the crowd clapping in unison this was always going to be the moment. Clearly the crowd favourite, the track was humming along with the finesse of a recently serviced Maserati when one of the brave souls on the barrier, “Emma”, was rewarded by being pulled on stage. She wasn’t sure whether to scream or pass out but did a splendid job of holding it together as she danced with Okereke and then led the chants of “T E N D E R O N I” like a true pro.
The first encore delivered the gems “Ready 2 Go” and “This Modern Love”, two songs from completely different ends of the Okereke song writing spectrum, but it worked. As “throw your arms around me” echoed from the speakers to close out “This Modern Love”, adoration was in the air, and there was a sense the 900 strong crowd wanted to mob Kele and do just that.
Surprisingly, it soon became apparent there would be a second encore. Kele and band (the male keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist looked amazingly like The Bedroom Philosopher) remerged to hysteria as the front man stated “we don’t normally do this, Melbourne” (Yeah right! But we’ll believe you). The decision to close the night with Bloc Party’s “Flux” was fitting, capping a night of high energy, crowd participation and many a dance move.
The party vibes ended there but not before a lot of discussion regarding the realisation that it was a Tuesday night. Exiting the venue, the underlying thought was if it were the weekend, a dance floor would be getting some serious attention somewhere and home wouldn’t be a consideration. What a night.