Music, OldVenue

Bombay Bicycle Club – live review

Flyte’s lead singer Will Taylor’s modest but certainly likable stage presence was a good fit with his band’s music: pleasant, guitar-based pop furnished with frequent whole-band vocal harmonies and handclaps. Occasionally keyboards are added to that formula, notably on ‘We Are The Rain’, whose introductory flourish of synth earns your favour even before the equally lovely chorus. This unassuming, inoffensive music is likable enough; Taylor shows a knack for the sort of simple, memorable melody that marks the loveliest Beatles songs, and he and his bandmates have the affable quality of a young band happy to make pop music that doesn’t want or need to be anything else. Check out ‘Over and Out’ for a taste.

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The name Rae Morris should be familiar to anyone who’s glanced at the full credits for the headliner’s new album. Morris provides the female vocal on the first and last tracks of So Long, See You Tomorrow, as well as on ‘Luna’, its new single. Few of Morris’ own songs are as upbeat or as texturally dense as the ones she guests on; she favours slow songs with sparse, atmospheric arrangements which highlight her piano and vocals. Hearing delicate yet mature music drift from this nineteen-year-old newcomer at a keyboard, it’s impossible not to think of Kate Bush; in particular on ‘Way Back When’, with its soft chords and multiple addresses to “dear god”. On ‘This Woman’s Work’ Morris’ beautiful, intelligent performance showed why she makes such a good touring partner for Bombay.

As anticipation for the headliners rose, so too did seven circular screens on stage. The screens’ purpose was soon revealed; as Bombay arrived and burst into ‘Overdone’, the animation which is separated into frames on the cover of So Long, See You Tomorrow was brought to pulsating life. Over the next hour, dynamic images of snakes, tigers and paradisiac rivers cartwheeled across the screens to create a gig that was as much a visual experience as a sonic one. Bombay have clearly decided music as vital and vibrant as theirs deserves to be played in front of something better than a logo-embossed bed sheet. It’s a commendable, exciting decision, and this reviewer hopes it will inspire other acts to explore similar cross-sensory techniques.

Every song from So Long, See You Tomorrow made an appearance, as well as old favourites like ‘It’s Always Like This’ and ‘Lamplight’, rejuvenated by the presence of a three-piece brass section. It would have been interesting to hear this brass trio and backing vocalist Liz Lawrence help re-interpret some songs from 2010’s acoustic Flaws, but this album sadly remained conspicuously absent. Nonetheless, the set Bombay did deliver was confident, technically excellent, and just a lot of fun. Singer Jack Steadman dedicated ‘Whenever, Wherever’ to Shakira.

Occasionally, a band delivers a performance that leaves you wishing you’d just listened to the record at home. With their musicianship and those dazzling visuals, Bombay Bicycle Club proved that live music can be a brand new, genuinely spectacular experience. In a recent interview, describing the lyrical, musical and visual aesthetic of Bombay’s new album, Steadman said “it’s just a big loop”. If only that sense of continuity extended to the durations of their live show, because this reviewer wanted it to go on forever.

25/03/2014

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charliemethven



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