Bombay Bicycle Club | Review
Bombay Bicycle Club @ O2 Academy, Bristol. 12.03.14.
They’re a band who don’t need to shout to be heard.
There’s nothing quite like a Bombay Bicycle Club gig to give you a good burst of serotonin. The excitement amongst the sold-out crowd ahead of BBC’s arrival onstage is obvious in the enthusiastic chanting and singing along to the classic O2 Academy rock ballads gushing from the speakers. Excitable hubbub is all around - Bombay are back in Bristol and stronger than ever.
The opening songs set the pace for the eighteen-song set. Both from new album ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’, the crowd gets a taste for the new BBC with its first two tracks, in chronological order. ‘Overdone’ is a rush of happy hooks and symphonic strings, whilst ‘Alright Now’ comes to life onstage and blows the already-brilliant recorded track out of the water. All set with euphoric grins and a three-piece brass outfit - the Brass Notes - the song is transformed into a goosebump-inducing experience.
Just looking at the stage is enough to realise how much the band have grown since they first graced it in 2009. Surrounded by musicians such as the Brass Notes and backing vocalist Liz Lawrence, they portray a new kind of confidence in their sound. The thrilling light show adds to the effect - five huge round screens bring the new album artwork to life in colourful kinetic sketches. But the strobe lights at the most energetic parts of the show (whilst singer Jack Steadman flails, head-banging with his guitar around the stage) haven’t changed since the first shows.
BBC aren’t ones to stick to the same formula, and nothing shows this more than the transition from first album’s grungey ‘Evening/Morning’ into mellow, finger-plucked haze ‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’ from their third. If there’s one thing they’ve been doing consistently with each album, though, it’s proving their tremendous song-writing skills. Every song is packed with highs, lows and hooks that keep the audience on their toes.
The crowd is an odd one tonight - full of the very young, the very old, the bald and the dreadlocked, each person is different and it shows just how brilliant songs can reach out to everyone. ‘Feel’ kicks off and the room is transfromed into a tropical fiesta. Maracas and tribal drumming break out and the Brass Notes are back again to make the blissful hooks even more exciting. Meanwhile colourful Mexican skulls and lizards inside rattlesnakes and rattlesnakes inside lizards pulsate on the round screens. The cultural influences on the track are huge, clearly stemming from Jack Steadman’s travelling experiences.
Just like an exotic tree, BBC have twisted and grown and blossomed into something unexpected but brilliant. The quiet falsetto of ‘Eyes Off You’ sees another turn from older material as Steadman is seated at his keyboard, enveloped in spotlight and the focus is all on his unfaltering voice.
It’s in their most subtle moments that the ridiculous amount of talent can be fully seen - the lyrics are quietly perfect, as is the music. They’re a band who don’t need to shout to be heard.
‘Luna’ raises deafening cheers in its first few seconds as lion-haired backing vocalist Rae Morris joins the band onstage before they leave for an encore. People cheer and stomp like mad even though guitars are being soundchecked and it’s obvious they will return. Drummer Suren De Saram is the first back and initiates a slowly accelerating clap-along which leads unknowingly into fan favourite ‘What If’.
BBC do however miss out classics like ‘Magnet’ and ‘Ivy & Gold’, understandable as tonight is very much focused on the new album’s exotic theme. Even debut single ‘Always Like This’ gets a sprucing up from the Brass Notes, with an endearing flourish of a solo at the end.
The crowd is devastated as BBC leave for good, but they’re experts at making people happy. Shakira blasts from the speakers as the lights come on, sparking what looks like a giant dance-off. It’s all the kind of brilliance you can expect from Jack Steadman, who recently confessed to singing songs from ‘The Aristocats’ before gigs in the NME.
Watch Bombay Bicycle Club’s video for ‘Luna’ right here