Dressed like pre-glam Slade, wearing turned up tight jeans and t-shirts, but trading the skinhead haircuts for floppy fringes and long wavy locks, Bombay Bicycle Club either by coincidence or design move even higher up in my estimations as they express their gratitude to our Black Country heroes through fashion. And despite not quite yet reaching the dizzying heights of Slade’s success, they certainly have picked up their knack of writing clever, catchy and well-arranged songs.
I did have reservations that this small band of rakish young north Londoners could have the presence and strength of performance to do justice to some of their more hard-edged studio recordings. I did not doubt that they could run through ‘Flaws’ with ease, as the accompanying live street versions of the songs on the deluxe album show how talented they are at this more folky style, but I was amazed to see how much more powerful and aggressive their harder/faster songs made the transition to stage.
“What If”, “What You Want“, “Cancel On Me”, “Emergency Contraception Blues “, “Always Like This” and “Shuffle” flowed effortlessly between their softer songs; “Still”, “Beggars” “The Giantess“ and “Dust On The Ground”. Already this young band have shown immense maturity and strength of character to so easily live up to their position of Britain’s most talented best kept secret.
Lead singer Jack Steadman is so much more than the soft voice on their albums; stronger in the flesh than the overtly emotional and often haunting recorded vocal would let you think. Sometimes Steadman sings like a blown up balloon being quickly deflated, and at other times like the balloon has just been popped. His movements are awkward and often jerky as if he has been shot by a machine gun. As strange as it sounds though, it is utterly captivating.
The other members of the band, including guest backing singer Lucy Rose allow Steadman the room to express himself, whilst supporting him with stunning musicianship and absolute consideration. It is helped that the songs are so well written and arranged that there is never a sense of the space being overcrowded by unnecessary noodling or bravado. The songs build and become dismantled only to be set up again: no better example is “Lights Out, Words Gone”, where guitar lines meld with keyboard phrases and wondrous sets of vocal and backing vocals, harmonies and counterpoint harmonized rhythmic sets… it sounds complex on record, and is a triumph to pull it off live.
Throughout the set, the crowd is with the band; right from the first track “How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep”, they are singing along. Later, as the sound gets harder, so does the mosh.. small groups of fourteen year olds on cider, square up to each other, the pushing and slamming soon escalating into some bizarre ritual of boys becoming men. Even the singer notes the excess of testosterone in the room – I am happy to be sitting up in the balcony. But the audience lift the band, and the band’s confidence shines and grows with every track. Steadman even remarks that they should have come to Wolverhampton ages ago. Let’s hope they come back sooner than later; their live set is unmissable.
How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep
Dust On The Ground
What You Want
Lights Out, Words Gone
Rinse Me Down
Ivy & Gold
Cancel On Me
Always Like This
The Giantess / Emergency Contraception Blues
Review – Al Neilson
Photos – John Bentley