Gig Review: Bombay Bicycle Club at Rock City

Words: Karl Blakesley
Photos: Karl Blakesley, Hannah Mills
Saturday 10 February 2024
reading time: min, words

Indie heroes Bombay Bicycle Clubs are without a doubt one of the country’s best festival bands. With a collection of songs that radiate warmth, positivity and a joyous collage of sounds and styles, their live performances are tailor-made for sun-kissed stages as you party in a field with your friends. The question is – can they do it on a cold, wet Tuesday night in Stok…er, Nottingham? We went along to Rock City to find out…

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First up on the bill tonight is Isle-of-Wight quartet Coach Party. They have pretty much packed out the room early doors, which is no surprise given they have played Nottingham a whopping seven times in the last three years, allowing them to gather their own devoted following in the city. They deliver the big-hitters early with FLAG (Feel Like A Girl) and Micro Aggression both bringing the energy, with the rest of the set heavily drawing from last year’s debut, KILLJOY. “Whose excited for Bombay then?” asks vocalist Jess Eastwood, with guitarist Steph Norris chirping in with “That was rubbish!” at the crowd’s somewhat tame enthusiasm. Hoping to crank that energy up another notch, they end their set on the raw, primal riffs of All I Wanna Do Is Hate and Parasite.

Although Coach Party did their best, admittedly the crowd still feels like a lukewarm Tuesday night audience at this point. Thankfully, Bombay have had the ingenious idea of putting on a DJ during the interval, with Chux rolling out the bangers in-between the live sets. Jumping from 00s R&B to 80s soul anthems, the posi-vibes in the room reach a peak with a final trio of dance classics: Freed From Desire, Where’s Your Head At and Praise You.

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It sets the mood perfectly for Bombay to triumphantly take to the stage, launching immediately into Just A Little More Time and I Want To Be Your Only Pet, the first two cuts off their 2023 album My Big Day. The songs sound even bigger in a live setting than they do on record and the reaction particularly for the opener is huge. “Nottingham how we doing?” asks frontman Jack Steadman with a beaming smile on his face. The band then quickly make the roof blow off courtesy of Overdone and a particularly liberating rendition of Feel, setting the tone for the So Long, See You Tomorrow cuts to get the biggest and best response from the crowd tonight. “This next one is dedicated to anyone who is having a birthday” Jack then declares, before he and the band bop their way through My Big Day’s title track and Tekken 2.

It's then time in the night for the Nottingham crowd to do what they do best – elevate the show with their best singing voices. Lights Out, Words Gone and How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep bring huge back-to-back singalongs, prompting Jack to respond, “We can always count on you guys – we played this last night and no-one sang that last section back.” As Nottingham do themselves proud, it’s important to point out just how amazing Bombay sound tonight, with the regular quartet elevated by extra brass and bongo players. The wonderful Olive Jones is also guesting on female vocal duties, assisting on a beautiful rendition of Diving that leads Jack to give a shout-out to local hero, Holly Humberstone, who sings on the studio version of the track.

“Last time we were here was four years ago” explains Jack, reminiscing about their last visit to Rock City. “We did our tour, released our album Everything Else Has Gone Wrong and then a few months later, it all shut down. So we’re sorry for jinxing it!” The band then launch into that album’s title track, before their 2019 comeback single Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You) delivers the biggest goosebump-inducing moment of the set. At the song’s conclusion, the crowd watching on gives the band a thunderous and unprecedented mid-set ovation, applauding and cheering for a good minute or so after the last note has been played. A testament if ever there was one to just how good Bombay are sounding tonight.

It's then time for the band to depart the stage, leaving just Jack Steadman, Olive Jones and an acoustic guitar for a beautiful performance of Flaws. Thankfully the chatter is non-existent for the stripped-back moment, with everyone captivated in complete silence. Once the rest of the band return to the stage, it’s then a run of back-to-back party-starters to end the main set, with Carry Me, Meditate, Luna and finally Shuffle, all successfully whipping the crowd up into a joyous frenzy.

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The band temporarily leave the stage but unsurprisingly the Rock City Hall fills with loud chants of “ONE MORE SONG” and what even sounds like “FOUR MORE SONGS” from a select group of punters. “Would it be ok if we played two more songs?” Jack asks, coming up with a fair compromise as he and the band return to the stage for the encore. He then dedicates Turn The World On to his son, before the epic 22 song, 90-minute set ends on a euphoric, crowd-pleasing finale of Always Like This.

Having seen photos of Bombay’s other tour dates so far, it seems Nottingham didn’t get some of the production tricks other cities were granted – for example there’s no balloon drops or confetti cannons tonight. However they weren’t missed at all, as just Bombay firing on all cylinders, a set full of life-affirming songs and an undeniable connection to the audience was all that was needed. So now they’ve proven they can do it on a wet Tuesday night, let’s get them back to Nottingham for a weekend or a festival show next time.

Bombay Bicycle Club Performed at Rock City on 6th February 2024.

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