I have previously listed, Bombay Bicycle Club as the best sound of 2012 thus far (http://scoaustin.blogspot.com/2012/02/albun-review-bombay-bicycle-club.html). Having now seen and heard them in the live setting, I have not wavered from that stance. Hailing from England and touted by the NME as "the hottest band to come from North London for quite some time", this is definitely a band worth getting acquainted with. Indeed, ‘Bombay Bicycle Club’ won the Best New Band award at the 2010 NME Awards which is an impressive feet given the competition - ‘The XX’, ‘La Roux’, and ‘Mumford & Sons’…the first of which were my personal favourites from that year.
Following a couple of solid warm up acts in Toronto indie kids, ‘The Darcy’s’ and English singer/songwriter, Lucy Rose, ‘Bombay Bicylce Club’ took to the stage at The Bowery Ballroom just shy of 10.30pm.
Kicking off with the haunting and tantalizing falsetto of lead man, Jack Steadman, a firm favorite from the bands most recent album, ‘A Different Kind Of Fix’ got the show off to a good start in, 'How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’. The song has something of a drum and bass beat in the background, yet sustains the ‘Manchester sound’ throughout. This is a common feature as the show develops. The one slight flaw on the opener was that the vocals needed upped a good wedge. Fortunately this adjustment was made half way through the track. On the plus side, the ability of drummer, de Saram was evident from the outset. A solid drummer is the key to any band. Following the promising start, it was straight in to, ‘Your Eyes’ also from the latest release. With an energetic ending to this slow meandering tune, Steadman howls “come-ing ba-a-ack” and the band displays a more animated live routine than I ever envisaged. I mean they are not doing choreographed dance moves, but they do display extreme enthusiasm and appear to be a young band who are caught in the moment of what they are doing right now. I couldn't quite put my finger on who Steadman sounds like at times, but I'm hearing a bit of Brian Molko of, 'Placebo' fame.
The third track of their set and the second on. ‘A Different Kind Of Fix’ is becoming another of my top tunes from that release. With chilling vocals and a great beat, this is a gripping tune and again the band rock out with fervor. Steadman often reverts to the delivery of almost sluggish, unhurried lyrics to good effect - “Why do you keep me back? With all your powers I am pushing at”. The lead man did not interact too much with the crowd in terms of chat, but rather, let the music do the talking. Personally, I prefer this approach. Bands and musicians are on stage to play and perform…if they wanted to talk, they should have become politicians.
We or rather, I was introduced to a couple of tracks from their previous album releases in, ‘Open House’ from debut album, ‘I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose’ and, ‘Dust On The Ground’ from the purely acoustic follow up, ‘Flaws’. The former is very much in the same vein as the current album, only includes something of a, Strokes/Kings of Leon guitar riff throughout. ‘Dust On The Ground’ is quite the opposite. The beautiful, gentle vocals of the front man rush to the fore on this one. With an almost Johnny Cash guitar strum, Steadman’s quivering voice fits like a glove. In all truth, I only really got in to, Bombay Bicycle Club a few months ago and hadn’t really had the time to delve in to their past releases. I certainly made a point to do so following this impressive showing.
From the old, we’re back to the new in, ‘Leave It’. I mentioned the Manchester sound in my opening, none more than in this track is this emphasised. Definitely takes me back to the, ‘Stone Roses’, ’Happy Mondays’, ‘The Smiths’ of that era/genre. ‘Take the Right One’ continues this theme with a ‘Joy Division’, ‘New Order’ kind of feel. Watching the bass player, Ed Nash (who looks like he’s barely old enough to be away from home, let alone be on stage at Bowery Ballroom in the latter hours of Monday night) and lead guitar, Jamie MacColl more closely, this is a band with talent in abundance. They have a confidence and fearlessness that exudes itself on stage. ‘Lights Out, Words Gone’ lightens the mood somewhat with a steady chilled out track accompanied by support, Lucy Rose on vocals.
Back now to a more extended run of five songs from their previous albums. ‘Rinse Me Down’ was like a country version of a, ‘Stone Roses’ oldie. In the easy listening bracket, but not really in line with the previous tracks. What followed was an odd selection for the set in ‘Ivy & Gold’. It was completely different to anything else played with a rockabilly sound to it…something I would expect from a ‘Pogues’ gig with an Irish folk feel. A good track with a nice little drum solo in which, MacColl held up a cowbell for, de Saram to play while their touring keyboardist jokingly picked up a fan from the stage to cool him off as he banged away. That said, the tune was slightly misplaced on this set I think.
‘Evening/Morning’ from the band’s debut had us back on track with some heavy synth and a spine tingling base. This was the surprise package for me and probably one of the standout tracks of the evening. I can’t quite put my finger who the lead man sounds like, but the vocals that ooze out of his slight frame continues to impress me as he belts out, “I am ready to owe you anything”. MacColl intros the next song, ‘Cancel On Me’ with a cute little guitar solo which has a Radiohead/Red Hot Chilli Peppers twang. If the past couple of tracks hadn’t warmed the crowd up following a mid-show fall off, the next couple certainly did. ‘Lamplight’ was rocking and definitely their most raucous of this set. Again the band, to a man displayed an aggression and liveliness that I never anticipated when they jammed out for a few solid minutes to close this one. ‘Always Like This’ starts of very mellow with a reggae style beat and a bit of trumpet (the trumpet player allegedly someone the band met on the day of their Williamsburg show a couple of days prior), but it went from soft to hard like an impotent man on Viagra. Concluding with the lyrics, “I’m not whole, I’m not whole, You waste it all” the excited Bowery crowd joined in as Steadman took pleasure in the interaction…great atmosphere for a gig in New York City.
They closed the main piece of their Bowery set with ‘What You Want’ which begins with an echoing harmony of “your flesh and bone, your flesh and bone”…this track again in the ‘Joy Division’ realm with its insk, insk beat and an element of electronica with some synthesizers. There was no way the New York crowd were letting them go just yet, and following a very short intermission, BBC were back with a two song encore. The popular and poppy, ‘Shuffle’ the first of the closers. A few simple piano chords open and then the pop does the rest. Lucy Rose again joins to assist with backing vocals to this straight up, uncomplicated, catchy number. It has a small component to it that reminds me of some of tracks from, Moby’s, Play’. I need to admit to dancing with my newborn ‘wee ScoAustin’ almost every night to this one. She seems to like it, and in all honestly, who wouldn’t? ‘What If’ closes with an arse kicking drum beat which is something similar to their London predecessors, Bloc Party. This is a band that I just can’t stop listening to and on this evidence, we’ll be listening for quite a while longer. Rating: 8/10
How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep
Dust on the Ground
Take the Right One
Lights Out, Words Gone
Rinse Me Down
Ivy And Gold
Cancel On Me
Always Like This
What You Want