After a 3-year hiatus, in which even the greatest of fans had almost given up hope, Bombay Bicycle Club announced their return to the alternative music scene on 14th January 2019; over a year later, I was finally able to see one of my favourite bands live in concert. In November 2019, the band played 5 shows around the UK showcasing their debut album “I Had the Blues but I Shook Them Loose” in full. After rave reviews from friends and critics alike, it was with extreme anticipation and enthusiasm that I stepped into the Leeds O2 Academy on Saturday 25th of January 2020. And boy, was I in for a treat! Never have I been to a concert where the swift ambush of a sweaty crowd leaving after the concert was so explicitly and vociferously positive, in an awed reflection vocalised in exclamations of “Wow, I didn’t think they would be that good!” and “What a night to remember”. My involvement in a night so special encouraged me to share my experience online, as I have yet to read a review of their 2020 tour, giving props to an incredibly timeless, fiery and relatable band where props are certainly due.
Bombay, after support from the lovely Liz Lawrence, who also shares job of vocals in the band, and The Big Moon, who were simultaneously understated and captivating, were certainly set up for a good night. They entered to the strong melody of a newer hit “Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing but You)”, and as the ensemble strutted on stage, they seemed unified in an almost holiness, amplified by the united glory of their simple but effective white-shirt-black-trousers combo. They looked Godly up there, where they belonged, using their typically older years in such a usually young music scene to their advantage. Like their outfits, the staging also worked to their advantage – three large squares hung above them, and throughout the show they opted for a strong but simple colour scheme to match the mood of each song. For example, the melancholic and melodious “Home by Now” was a soft purple, and the energetic hit “Feel” lit the stage with an ocean of reds, yellows and oranges. The band were energetic and flawless in their musical execution, hooking the crowd with every melody and every repetition was sung louder and louder. Mosh pits appeared, though not the violent dangerous kind, but circles full of bouncing persons from every age group simply enjoying the tender night. Stand out hits were certainly “Overdone” earlier on in the night, and “Shuffle”.
Perhaps only because I was looking for something to critique in an otherwise perfect gig, there are two minor things I think Bombay could have possibly improved on: firstly, a new addition to their band saw a brass trio in the back-right corner of the stage. The alterations to existing hits, such as “Always Like This”, meant the soaring, moaning brass was an epic addition, however when the players had nothing to add they stood, uncertain and out of place, in the corner of an otherwise lively and cohesive stage. For an easy rectification, they could have perhaps been swaying or stepping in time with one another to the beat, instead of swinging their limbs in an awkward and off-beat attempt at harmony. This though, I am sure, proved no distraction for the ecstatic and sweating crowd – all eyes too seemed to be on lead singer Jack Steadman, despite his lack of movement around the stage. His voice spoke for itself, effortless and at a perfect volume alongside the music.
Secondly, the crowd seemed to react more to older songs, and sometimes hits from their new album, such as “Good Day” and “I Can Hardly Speak”, though executed perfectly by the musicians, fell flat per say, with the crowd talking over them, but to any other gig standards I’m sure received terrific reception. Perhaps this comes with time: as a matter of fact, one of my favourite moments of the night was when Jack Steadman opened up to the crowd, possibly swept away by the gleeful atmosphere pervading the sticky club. He admitted that their return to music hadn’t always been this easy, as the crowds at the beginning of 2019 had been “dead”, unsettling the band; now, however, they were certain they had made the right decision. It felt, as a singular unit of an audience making so many on-stage musicians beam with genuine pride, euphoric.
Bombay finished the gig with style – their encore was perfect, after a highly suspenseful 2 minutes, lighting the stage a passionate red during the angsty yet catchy “Everything Else Has Gone Wrong”, and ending with a purple-lit, energetic rendition of “Always Like This”. The hour-long walk home in the bitter, crisp air had never felt so good, all due to the endless magic of Bombay Bicycle Club. If, and when, they decide to go back on tour, do yourself a favour and get a ticket.