Bombay Bicycle Club – Live Review

After seeing Bombay Bicycle Club twice before, both over the summer, I wasn’t sure what to expect as I counted down to the 11th October, where I would be seeing them at the O2 Academy Oxford.

The first time I saw them was their headlining set at Underage Festival, on the 5th of August. Despite only having a 45 minute set, I was particularly impressed with how they played the songs that I did know. The songs from their new album, none of which they had released except ‘Shuffle’, slightly bored me. Perhaps this was because they had such a different pace to I Had The Blues…, or maybe it’s because I like being able to sing along to every word when I see acts live. When around 1/3 of the songs they played were off an unreleased album, that I had no way of hearing before the evening, I wasn’t too impressed. Still, I went away with high hopes for seeing them at Reading Festival later that month.

I don’t think I can particularly judge their performance at Reading Festival, as I spent most of it isolated from most of my friends searching through the crowd for people we knew. And you know what crowds are like when they think you’re trying to push forward; they will not budge. Again, about 1/3 of their songs were new, and their third album was still yet to be released. Well, at least when I listened to their new album I already recognised quite a few of their songs.

11th October arrived. As we arrived in the venue (The O2 Academy Oxford – which to be honest, isn’t one of my favourites, but at least it keeps some intimacy) we heard the first of the support acts, who I don’t remember the name of and wouldn’t recommend listening to. I was severely disappointed actually, seeing as on the northern dates of their tour, BBC were supported by Dog Is Dead, a fantastic new band I had seen live once before and fallen in love with immediately. I figured that this support act must be on the same level as them, right? Wrong. We stayed sat down. The second support act were slightly more enjoyable, but perhaps that was just because we decided to secure a good spot in the crowd and were therefore forced to pay them more attention. Well, some attention. We were distracted by the 14 year old girls dancing near us like they were in an under 18’s club. I’ll say no more. 

Finally, Bombay Bicycle Club came on stage, and frankly, I was blown away. They oozed charisma like never before, and the crowd were brilliant. They opened with Shuffle, played a lot of A Different Kind Of Fix (which I enjoyed a lot more now since I had actually given the album a listen when hearing the songs live), a few songs from Flaws, and many songs from the eternally brilliant I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose. There’s nothing like standing in a crowd where everyone knows every word to every song. Most people even sang along to the guitar riffs. Brilliant. You could tell that the band enjoyed themselves, which I hadn’t seen at their festival performances, adding even more energy to the crowd. We were even treated to Open House, from one of their earliest EP’s, which really was a joy to hear live for any long term BBC fan, and is probably a song they won’t play live again outside of this tour.

(Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos that night, but here’s Bombay Bicycle Club in 2008. Check Jack’s hair.)

The encore was the perfect way to end their performance. After ‘ending’ on The Giantess (merged with the instrumental of Emergency Contraceptive Blues), the band left the stage to many cheers of an encore. A tense few minutes followed, where I was convinced they would continue with an encore but it seemed less likely by the second. Finally, Jack appeared, alone at the piano, where he performed a beautiful rendition of Still. But no, they didn’t just end it on that – the whole band joined for the final song, which happens to be my favourite Bombay Bicycle Club song of all time, What If. It was excellent, they were excellent, and the entire evening was… excellent.

I would strongly recommend seeing Bombay Bicycle Club live, but definitely on tour rather than at a festival. This way, not only do you get to hear around 10 more songs, the crowd are generally better and the whole performance is much more intimate. After seeing them in Oxford, I couldn’t resist buying tickets for their April tour, and I think you do too!

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