Bombay Bicycle Club

Inspiration for band names comes from all over the place these days. Belle and Sebastian named themselves after a French children’s book, the Maccabees allegedly found theirs in the Bible, and Bombay Bicycle Club christened themselves after a string of Indian restaurants in London.

First making their way in the world when they won a Battle of the Bands competition back in 2006, Bombay Bicycle Club have finally released their debut album, I Had the Blues but I Shook them Loose. The band – a four-piece from London which, because of the band members’ ages, have a lot more in common with most university students than the majority of other bands – are slowly climbing the ladder of musical success, playing at Reading for the third year in a row this year, as well as being nominated for Best Breakthrough Act at the Festival Awards 2009. Now slightly older, and wiser, than they were when they first stumbled blindly into music a few years ago, it was interesting to see whether the band were able to stand up against all the hype that has accompanied their first record, or whether they would melt away underneath the heat of the stage lights.

After sets from support bands the Tantrums and Flashguns, Bombay Bicycle Club appeared on stage, launching straight into playing their latest single, ‘Magnet’. Despite casually ambling onto stage in a rather nonchalant way, the moment the band picked up their instruments they all seemed to all be overcome by a rush of energy, infusing their set with a sense of animation that lasted right until the very last song.

Throughout the entire set Jack Steadman, the lead singer, had a manic grin plastered on his face, much like an overly-eager five year-old on Christmas morning. He, and the rest of the band, spent the whole gig looking like they were having the time of their lives, a refreshing change from the sour-faced solemnity that often constitutes singers’ expressions. They played with a wonderful level of vigor, throwing themselves wholeheartedly into every single song and making even the most reluctant crowd members itchy to start dancing.

Steadman’s low bewitching croon, part of the band’s trademark sound, along with the jerky riffs and romantic lyrics, transformed almost every song on the album into something absolutely bursting with life. Conversation in between songs was scarce, save for numerous expressions of gratitude directed towards the crowd, but it made for a gig that flowed perfectly. There were no stagnant pauses or mumbled comments, just fifty minutes of almost uninterrupted music, with old favourites such as ‘Open House’ interwoven with newer songs like ‘Lamplight’ and ‘Evening Morning’. When the band eventually trundled off stage at the end of their set, they were coaxed back on to play an encore of ‘The Hill’, by calls of “Play us another tune!” from the audience.

Every single review that I have ever read of Bombay Bicycle Club has been littered with numerous references to adolescence and fluttering hormones, almost as if the band members’ youth is the most astonishing thing about them. Their gig at the 02 Academy was more than enough to dispel such beliefs. The performance was all about the music, nothing more, nothing less. It wasn’t steeped in flowery pretension or hiding behind gimmicks, but beautifully honest. Although the set list was short and sweet, the band played their hearts out, making up for their lack in conversation by their complete immersion in the music.


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