LIVE REVIEW: Bombay Bicycle Club @ O2 Academy, Newcastle (12.12.14) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Bombay Bicycle Club have, in the past, been referred to as a little shy and retiring and somewhat timid in comparison to their peers. Granted, at a glance with their regular appearance and unwillingness to act outlandishly to gain column inches, you could be forgiven for writing them off as nice but a bit dull. You’d be wrong though. Scratch a little below the surface and what you’ll find is one of the most fearless and dynamic British bands.

Having seen them many times previously at festivals and in various sized venues, I’ve always known their live prowess to be exceptional, yet having seen footage of their Glastonbury set this year I was more charged than ever about seeing the quartet. Watching them play The Other Stage, it felt like they’d crossed the threshold from being a proficient live band to being a remarkable live band who really knew how to put on a show. And that was a feeling that only intensified on seeing them at the Academy.

It must be a pretty daunting prospect for a band with such a varied body of work behind them to try and put together a set that incorporates many different styles but remains seamless. With earlier Bombay largely consisting of premium indie rock, what followed was a period of stripped back folksy charm in the form of Flaws, with a more art rock sound on A Different Kind of Fix, and their newest offering So Long, See You Tomorrow was decidedly more synth driven. A tall order for a 90 minute set but a task the quartet seemed to have taken on head first.

Serving as a pageant to their sonic evolution, it was not only a sonic feast but an optical feast too, with every track being accompanied by dramatic lighting and visuals, ranging from cavorting skeletons to gambolling cobras, all adding to the narrative and cohesion of the evening.

Frontman Jack Steadman’s vulnerable and palpitating vocals, accompanied by pounding basslines and strict guitars, oscillated between pensive odes and euphoric odes littered with sweet harmonies and electronic bites. The likes of Home By Now and How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep? provided the haunting subtlety as did the comely backing vocals from Liz Lawrence, who also helped make their cover of Robyn’s With Every Heartbeat most touching.

Whilst their new sound is clearly about rhythm and beat, they still know how to pull off a colossal dose of rock

The new album saw Steadman take on production duties having been inspired by his travels around Asia. This was a sentiment suitably translated on stage with five extra musicians, including a brass trio, who helped bring a carnival feeling, no more so than during Feel where three drum kits were in use and a real Bollywood vibe was evoked. The inclusion of saxophone and trumpet throughout served as a real compliment to the stern drumming from Suren (who was greeted with a birthday cake and a haphazard rendition of Happy Birthday) and steadfast guitars from Jamie and Ed.

Whilst their new sound is clearly all about rhythm and beat, they still know how to pull off a colossal dose of rock, as witnessed in What If during their encore. Full of furore and aggression, it provided the last opportunity for band and audience alike to really lose themselves and get caught up in ferocious guitars and infectious hooks.

Bombay Bicycle Club seem to be a band who have found their “happy place”; amalgamating electronic leanings with subtle sounds and fierce guitars. Relaxed and confident, they’re increasingly assured and it shows.

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