All words: Finch Fulton — All photos: Farrah Skeiky
Bombay Bicycle Club (BBC) started their show strong with “How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep,” to a resounding ovation. This would have been a good time to walk away.
Throughout the night, Jack Steadman’s vocals and Ed Nash’s bass were competing to fade into the background, with the drums left to play an unassuming and unprepared lead. I tried to enjoy the show, I really did. I assumed I just had to really lean into it to hear the secrets of their songs…but on this night, they just weren’t coming.
Soon, I came to the conclusion that BBC is simply more suited towards enjoying at your computer rather than at a club–on this night at least. The interplay between bass, vocals and, you know, “studio magic,” was simply lost. I tried harder to enjoy it. I moved from spot to spot, upstairs, downstairs, near hipsters, near pretty girls. No luck (but substantially more pleasant near the pretty girls).
Maybe I was missing something, maybe I just didn’t get the nuance of this fine musical bicycling association. It all just seemed inoffensive and passive at best. It has to be hard to pack a show with such a lack of force, but the 9:30 Club was packed out. Was everyone else who showed up tricked by their computers as well?
This band is good, with touches of, well, really-goodness, but their live show comes off as an uninspiring toying at the math rock flourishes of an act like Minus the Bear without committing to the polished, clean sound of MtB’s live shows.
Steadman’s light, round voice also made words hard to distinguish, although pleasant. I understand that at times this is used in an appealing way. In my most humble opinion, one of the main problems with their live show is that you simply can’t hear the words. I understand that the band is about the total sound, but without coherent words the band loses an important dimension. Their songs have become without stories, poems or references to bicycles and the mustachioed men I assume make up their namesake bicycle club.
Just as I’m ready to leave the show early, they break out a rolling drum solo, which morphs into a drumming exposition with the Steadman and guitarist Jamie MacColl walking up with a snare drum and a cowbell for the drummer’s (Suren de Saram) greater thumping pleasure. Ah, “Ivy & Gold.” This, at least, is a pleasing and fun diversion. My blood starts to pump again.
The crowd is teased with another new song (“Big”?) they’re introducing. It starts out with a powerful lead in, but the potential is wasted due to a lack of direction or commanding voice. The song has some bouts of power and beauty, but mostly drifts. I’m bored again.
BBC first caught my attention, as with many, with their single “Shuffle.” I figure they intend to bookend their show with their most popular songs, and are saving Shuffle for the end. I wait. Of course, “Shuffle” comes off flat and uninspiring.
They play a few last songs, “What If” and a new one called “You Carry Me.” I listen. It has its intriguing bits, but They’ve Already Lost Me. I go home; satisfied that I can still enjoy Bombay Bicycle Club in the luxury of my own playlists where they are still strong contenders for the love of my ear drums. But I’ll never bother seeing them again live.