Bombay Bicycle Club; O2 Academy, Leeds, 2/3/14
Last night I finally fell out of love with a band I’ve been following for five years. Since their debut I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose found its way onto my bedroom shelf many years ago, I have considered myself part of the Bicycle Club. This isn’t to say I’m an obsessive, one of those ardent, extremist, followers of a band who become completely tunnel-visioned with music as a whole, but I liked their music. A lot. As a moody teenage layabout I Had The Blues was perfect: an almost lo-fi guitar sound that ventured from dark and growling to lighter than air, the lyrics were cryptic yet tangible and frontman Jack Steadman was a natural geek-chic indie role model. Gradually, however, myself and the band have grown apart. This isn’t to say I now dislike the band. Anything but. Their most recent album So Long, See You Tomorrow sees their sound successfully evolve once again and saw them deservedly claim a Number One album (albeit for a short while).
I could handle Flaws, their acoustic throwaway. Fine. Whatever. It was just a phase. A Difference Kind of Fix got things pointing in the right direction again (roughly), although it was tepid in parts and far from the album it could have been. However, So Long, See You Tomorrow continues even further on Bombay’s dance, folk-rock trajectory and for the most part succeeds, particularly live, thanks to the world music influences and inventiveness of the songs themselves. No less than ten songs were played last night to a packed-to-the-rafters (I was in the rafters) audience at the Leeds O2 arena and they were all warmly received. Despite this, the songs that really blew the roof off were the four included from their debut.
‘Lamplight’, Evening/Morning’, ‘Always Like This’ and ‘What If’ were the chosen few and more than matched their newer counterparts. For these songs the band returned to their infancy, the four original members alone onstage and amps turned up to eleven. No three-piece horn section and certainly no female-co-vocalist-of -little -to-moderate-fame-clinging-hopelessly-to- the-Bombay-bandwagon required. A raucous rendition of ‘Lamplight’ saw the band let loose for the first time during the set, as the first five numbers were accompanied by an awkward-shuffle-dance performed by the majority on stage. As well as appearing far more comfortable as a four-piece, the uncluttered arrangement reminded the audience exactly why the band got big in the first place. And the first thing is Suren de Saram’s drumming.
To help outline this, I implore you, dear reader, to listen to ‘Evening/Morning‘. Go on. Bet you haven’t heard it in a while. Ok, good. Thank you. That drum roll at the start? It sounds like the Pamplona bull run live. First verse. A marvel of intricacy. Second verse. Tell me that off-beat hit on the bell of the ride cymbal isn’t the best evidence we have for the existence of God. And so on and so forth. Live, the song is a monster. It is still the best thing they’ve ever written and only the encore performance of ‘What If’ matched it in terms of intensity and reception. For the rest of the band, Ed Nash’s thundering basslines still carry most of the songs and Steadman’s vocals remain as uniquely vulnerable as ever. ‘Luna’ thrives thanks to their unlikely combination at the top of the live mix, and proves the standout track from the new album. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough to stop me longing for the band they used to be.