Review: Bombay Bicycle Club, The Big Moon & Liz Lawrence at O2 Academy Bournemouth

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Bombay Bicycle Club’s coveted return saw them blow away a sold-out O2 Academy Bournemouth with the help of Liz Lawrence and The Big Moon.

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Following a 4-year hiatus, Bombay Bicycle Club are back! The news that they would be returning was arguably the best news of an otherwise dreary 2019. With the release of their 5th studio album, Everything Else Has Gone Wrong and a full UK tour to go along with it, 2020 has gotten off to a fantastic start. I was lucky enough to catch them down in Bournemouth, where the seaside air was crisp but the band were sounding even crisper…

The O2 Academy Bournemouth was a sell-out, full to the brim with both upper tiers packed to watch the north Londoner’s revival. Despite huge queues to get a drink, there wasn’t a rowdy fool in sight. Everyone seemed calm, collected and ready to enjoy several hours of high calibre tunes. It wasn’t just Bombay offering this. Liz Lawrence was down as the first act, having given herself two jobs for the evening as Bombay’s backing vocalist/instrumentalist. She truly has the knack for music, with a flawless voice which can both mesmerise at centre stage and compliment other musicians. I witnessed her play practically every instrument on stage, seemingly enjoying every second. She is an absolutely class performer and I would highly recommend her 2019 album Pity Party.

Next up was The Big Moon, a 90s alt-rock influenced four-piece formed in London in 2014 by lead vocalist Juliette Jackson and mutual acquaintances. Jackson, donning a blood-red blazer and chord trousers, seemed a natural-born frontwoman with just the right amount of crowd interaction and banter. The London band have also recently released their sophomore album Walking Like We Do, taking a more 80s-style, synth-driven approach while somehow also maintaining the grungy 90s tones that made them so beloved. They did manage to squeeze in a couple of first album bangers into their short set in the form of the delicious ‘Cupid’ and opener ‘Sucker’.

Lead guitarist Soph Nathan and bassist Celia Archer also share in the singing duties alongside Jackson, with the three of them together producing uplifting harmonies. No clearer example came than midway through the set in ‘Its Easy Then’, one of the singles from their new record. To add to the excitement drummer Fern Ford whipped out a trumpet during the bridge while maintaining the beat with the foot pedal. Laying the brass back down for a harmonised finish. Jackson put down her guitar to allow for a more slowed down, piano-driven track with ‘Waves’. The front trio repeating the final line “You had me going for a minute there” in glorious harmony. My only criticism of this band – too short a set! Looks like I’ll have to catch them at the end of February when they play at several venues up and down the country.

With The Big Moon (sadly) finished, it was now half an hour until the main event. In the interlude a varied selection of pre-set hype music played, from a bit of the Cornelius Brothers to Skepta & JME’s ‘That’s Not Me’. Not that the crowd needed to be hyped up with everyone already brimming with excitement. As the clock struck 9 the lights went down and an orchestral opening to ‘Eat, Sleep (Nothing but You)’, the premier single from their latest album, began to play. Three large luminescent squares hung above the stage and lit up as the band entered the stage. Jumping into the new track with the vigour of a well-rested athlete, this was swiftly followed up by ‘Is It Real’, the final single released before the full release of the album. The lads played a more stripped back show at HMV Bournemouth earlier that day, showing off some of these tracks and signing records in the process.

A three-piece brass section was invited on stage to make fourth album hits ‘Overdone’, ‘It’s Alright Now’ and ‘Feel’ really come to life on stage. At around the midway point, all ancillary musicians exited the stage, leaving just the quartet. Lead vocalist Jack Steadman made a reference to their 2019 10-year anniversary tour of debut album ‘I Had the Blues but I Shook Them Loose’, subsequently descending into a flurry of tracks from sed album. ‘Cancel On Me’, ‘Lamplight’ and ‘Evening/Morning’ were blasted with power and conviction. At this point in the set, I’m embarrassed to admit that nature was calling, however, banger after banger ensued and I, like everyone else remained transfixed on the stage. It was during the breakdown for ‘Shuffle’ that I fully appreciated the love many have for this band. And I think the band realised that too, as they all looked out at the crowd, with Steadman taking the feedback monitors out of his ears in order to fully appreciate the entire venue singing their lungs out. He smiled and turned the mic towards them with lead guitarist Jamie MacColl graciously thanking the crowd after.

There was just enough time after the band had ended on ‘Carry Me’ to answer nature’s call before a two-song encore consisting of ‘Everything Else Has Gone Wrong’, the title track from their latest album and Always Like This, arguably the biggest song from their first album. This was given an extended outro which incorporated the brass section and had everyone enthralled till the last note. If I had to describe Bombay Bicycle Club to someone who had never listened to them I would say they dabble in crystalline math rock, wistful indie-folk, world music and ambient yet uplifting pop. Across five albums they have provided an eclectic mix of genres which is what makes their gigs so varied and leave you never wanting it to end. I would argue that everyone in the venue would have happily stood through all five albums front to back and back to front, providing regular bathroom breaks were pencilled into the setlist.

You can find tickets for Bombay Bicycle Club’s remaining tour supported by The Big Moon  and Liz Lawrence here

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