Bombay Bicycle Club

support The Ramona Flowers
author TL date 11/02/14 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

Bombay Bicycle Club has had wind in the sails already since winning a band competition to play V Festival in 2006, but it wasn't until three albums later that I became aware of them, when the single "Shuffle" made its rounds internationally, and it wasn't until now, after the recent release of their fourth album "So Long, See You Tomorrow" that the band finally made its way to Copenhagen. For me they've been a band I've liked but never quite loved, and being anxious to see if witnessing them live would affect this, I decided to join a hip, young - and very nicely smelling - Copenhagen audience for the show which due to popular demand has been upgraded from Vega's smaller concert room to the main venue. So, with beer in hand and earplugs forgotten at home (blast it) I stand ready and attentive when the support band arrives.

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The Ramona Flowers

Fast approaching 28 years of age, I might be too old to confess that Mary Elizabeth Winstead's Ramona Flowers is probably in the running for my "Most Attractive Female Movie Lead Ever" award, and similarly, this Bristol quartet looks a bit too mature and serious to have borrowed the band's name from Scott Pilgrim's dream girl - and more importantly, they probably sound a bit too inspired by U2. With a clear and high voice, their singer leads the band confidently and casually from centre stage while his mates look satisfied with merely grooving about behind him. There's something about the beats and atmospheres that feels a bit heavy-handed and tryhard and especially when the singing hits the lower notes or is delivered unaccompanied by keys or guitar, the tones get a bit flat, but conversely there are equal measures of moments where a rhythm insists that you move and where the singing is impressively delicate - especially when it comes to the excellent falsetto parts.

Between songs we're dutifully queried if we're excited for the headliner and after a while I spot a friend whom I move over to stand by. This happens to be more directly in front of the left speaker, where I experience the full effect of a few songs where the bass is cranked up milimetres short of Italian Job-ish "Blow the clothes off women" levels, and we feel every fibre of our beings vibrate along to the music's deeper frequencies - impressively without compromising the clarity of either instruments or vocals. Only the guitar and the vocals get slightly in each others' way at times, but for a support band, the mix must be said to be quite excellent. Still, the audience seemingly have the same semi-concious reservations that I have, about fully embracing the shameless pop beats at the heart of the band's otherwise high strung sound, so while the performance is confident, it doesn't really get hold in people and eventually closes on a merely solid, business-like note.

Bombay Bicycle Club

After the changeover it's time for Bombay Bicycle Club, who borrowed their name from a now closed London restaurant - and I wonder (not for the first time) whether that was coincidentally named with words that abbreviate to BBC in the first place. Regardless, the quartet take positions - along with added touring members - between extra spots and in front of a handful of large discs that recreate the solar cycle motives of the new album's cover art. Opening with that album's leading song "Overdone" it quickly becomes clear that the sound is only further improved from the already fine adjustment it was characterised by during the previous set, and as the band's immersive tones envelop us the crowd immediately looks to be in a dancing mood, grooving about excitedly in response to the band's characteristic soundscapes.

The album is followed as far as second song "It's Alright Now" before it breaks off into "Shuffle" which is received predictably well, yet which also feels like it's the only song tonight that the band hurries through looking a bit uninspired. Single syndrome perhaps? Regardless, things are picked up with "Your Eyes" and "How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep", and as the show proceeds across its middle, a quick status check seems to have things looking pretty good overall. The mix is, as previously mentioned, exquisite, and the extra organicness and edge that a live performance gives to the music only makes it more immersive. There's a lot of (synthesized) instrumental variety, there's a rich tapestry of notes that intertwine perfectly and the band is playing in lively, spirited manner on stage, looking like they have a love of making the noises they do here in front of us.

What's irked me about Bombay Bicycle Club on record though, and what irks me somewhat here, is that the perfection and carefulness they present in the department of composition comes at the cost of them opting out of reaching out for their audience via more conventional and direct avenues. Frontman Jack Steadman sings wonderfully in his folksy voice which somehow sounds sharp and breathy at the same time, and the female harmonies are also brilliant, but there's a persistent feeling that both singers and instrumentalists are performing for the audience, not to the audience, and you almost suspect that the band is wary of risking the integrity of their soundscapes by getting their individual personalities involved in a more forthcoming way.

As the show proceeds through a second half with a few songs from "A Different Kind Of Fix" and "I Got The Blues But I Shook Them Loose" ("Lamplight", "Evening/Morning" and "Lights Out, Words Gone" to name a few") sandwiched in between more from "So Long.." - "Home By Now", "Feel" and "Whenever, Whereever" among others - we hence get only sparse and trivial attempts at between-song communication. Clearly it's the instruments that are meant to keep the enchantment working, yet despite some nice and noisy rocking moments to contrast a song and a half delivered almost exclusively by Steadman at the piano, you start to notice people getting a bit less engaged towards the end. The half of the room in front of me is erupting on occasions where the dynamics pull us harder, but behind me there are equal groups of people that are watching more out of respect and patience than out of excitement.

So when things eventually end with the final romp of single "Carry Me" and the encore performance of album closer "So Long, See You Tomorrow", I'm no more spellbound than to make a hasty exit to beat the cloakroom queues, and it's with feelings that remain slightly mixed that I leave Bombay Bicycle Club's show. If I had closed my eyes throughout the show, or if I had maintained a more persistent alcoholic buzz and had someone like-minded to dance with, things would have been perfect, because on the strictly sonic side, Bombay Bicycle Club were startlingly good. In terms of visual performance and power of personality however, they were decent but not really out of the ordinary, and conclusively, my final verdict becomes that they're a few hairs' breadths short of the total experience that characterises the concerts that checks all the boxes you're looking for.


  • Overdone
  • It's Alright Now
  • Shuffle
  • Come To
  • Your Eyes
  • How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep
  • Lamplight
  • Evening/Morning
  • Home By Now
  • Feel
  • Lights Out
  • Eyes Off You
  • Whenever, Whereever
  • Luna
  • Always Like You
  • What If
  • Carry Me

- Encore -

  • So Long, See You Tomorrow

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