Reflecting on an impressive north London gig on Saturday 28 April.
Ally Pally is a fitting venue for Crouch End’s Bombay Bicycle Club. Not only is the venue’s history linked with the bands acronymic doppleganger the Beeb, but there’s the palace’s dominance of the surrounding area.
This majestic monolith of a bygone age wisely conducts North London’s sky line, and as singer Jack Steadman humbly announces to the 10,000 sell-out crowd: “For one of the first photos someone took of us we were on Jamie’s roof and you could see this place behind us. It’s very special.”
He’s right. Tonight’s homecoming has a festival atmosphere of laid back excitement, which support act Lianne la Haves, one of our Ones To Watch, beautifully soundtracks. The waft of exotic food stalls, crushed paper pint cups and friends casually lolling around, makes it more akin to a party in Victoria Park, albeit one with a cavernous roof to quash the torrential weather outside.
Few bands have managed to master the route Bombay Bicycle Club embarked upon. Three musically varied albums, form a starting point of angular world rhythms, shouldn’t work. Contemporaries The Maccabees and The Horrors did it right, by sounding like proper bands from the start and developing their style in public. But BBC didn’t need the obvious path; their unique style and creative output was enough to capture imaginations.
Tonight’s success is testament to their chutzpah. They confidently deploy arena showmanship by starting the wonderful How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep from behind a stage curtain which drops for the second verse. Their energised melancholia immediately garnering a sing-a-long from the tingling audience.
They balance their catalogue with erratic precision, treating their first album, I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose with the same respect as their most recent, A Different Kind of Fix; the former generating the familiar arms-in-the air-moment of Dust in The Air and the bass rumble of Evening/Morning.
It’s their new material, however, which has really propelled them to a status worthy of tonight’s venue. The grooving bass of Lights Out, Words Gone is as slick as an 80’s neon wine bar and just as classy. While Leave It, featuring a cameo from Lucy Rose, gives the middle of the road an enthralling edginess which yearns for attention.
They’re seemingly preparing themselves to take on stadium shows in the future. Rise Me Down and Ivy and Gold are their walk along a catwalk to play stripped down in the crowd moments — a style milked by the U2s of the world. There’s even a drum solo by Suren de Saram featuring a tiger holding an extra snare drum. OK, it might have just been a man in suit, but hey, it looked good.
Of course, it’s the big hitters that really matter and Always Like This, which was moulded to incorporate horns giving in a breezy calypso edge, and Shuffle dominate the night with their creeping infectiousness. Closing the night with What If confirmed the impression of a group oozing with brave confidence and stepping out as a major band.
Bombay Bicycle have been able to take the scope of Interpol and The National, but frame it in an angular summer groove that is unique and impressive. Tonight, from the top of Alexandra Park they have not only London, but potentially the world, literally at their feet.