Bombay Bicycle Cub, Islington Assembly Hall, 26th August 2021
This is exciting. It’s my 4th gig of 2021 and more importantly, my first with Mrs JO’B and my first full band, full gig. #1 Gruff Rhys was a chilled acoustic show, #2 The Orielles was interrupted by being pinged and #3 Desperate Journalist was a short, instore set.
This is a full show, by a full band in a proper venue. Wowser.
Bombay Bicycle Club (not to be confused with the curry house that used to be in Greenwich) are an oddity. Over the last 15 years, they have quietly, without a lot of fuss become huge. The last time I saw them was Ally Pally back at the beginning of 2020, a massive venue to sell out, which they easily did after a 3-year hiatus.
So this is a tiny gig for them (894 capacity), a warm up between festival shows and a show back on home turf, as they all grew up in and around north London.
Support band KAWALA are ok – their music is pretty, but their singer dances in the way someone who thinks they are “whacky” dances, the sort of person with a t-shirt that says “you don’t have to be crazy to work here…but it helps!”. Shame, hope someone tells him. It distracts from the music which is pleasing, fun and clearly inspired by Bombay Bicycle Club. Latest single, Ticket To Ride, is cheery pop and worth a listen. Ultimately, it’s just lightweight pop fluff compared to the main act. But the crowd love them, so what do I know?
We are old, and up in the balcony – we must look like trouble though because the nice security man tells me twice I am not allowed to stand up or dance. I wonder has seen me dance here before???? Harsh! The crowd are young, sweaty and excited and go MENTAL when Bombay Bicycle Club come on stage – it’s thrilling to be back at a show and be surrounded by such happiness. This is a party, not a gig.
Although it’s a much smaller venue, the stage set recreates the massive stage at Ally Pally last year – this is a big show crammed into a small venue, it feels like they will take the roof off the place at times. It’s loud, hypnotic and fun. The set covers four of the five albums, dodging their chilled folky second album, Flaws. This is very focused on rousing, crowd pleasers. Opening salvo Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You), Is It Real, Overdone and Shuffle are stomping bangers, all lapped up by an audience who are just thrilled to have normality back.
Things slow down for a cover of Selena Gomez’ Lose You to Love You – I have no idea who Selena Gomez is, but singer Jack Steadman announces this like I should. It’s more lightweight pop, not my cup of char. But the rest of the set is solid indie meats dance meets afrobeat meets psychedelia. That’ll do nicely. Luna is joyous, Everything Else Has Gone Wrong is apt and Carry Me feels a jubilant end to a short, tight show.
Ultimately, the best moments come from their debut album I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose – encore Always Like This is always great fun with its afrobeat rhythms and has the bouncers trying to stop the balcony dancing, poor chaps. But the standout is Evening / Morning, it’s bass heavy coda extended to mesmerising effect.
We leave and people are still jigging as they toddle back to the tube. Always a good sign. Gigs are back, baby!