I went to see Bombay Bicycle Club Earlier this year when they toured as part of the NME awards tour along with “The Big Pink”, “The Drums” and “The Maccabees”. BBC were easily the standout act on that bill and the reason that I bought a ticket to be honest.
At the time the NME tour was helping to promote their debut album “I had The Blues but Shook Them Loose” – which pioneered their brand of intricate micro riffing and with tunes like “Always Like This” drew parallels with “Vampire Weekend.”
When I heard earlier this year that they would be bringing out a new acoustic album I was salivating at the prospect of the new arrival so soon after their debut. Actually, I wasn’t salivating – that would be a little strange “yeah I started dribbling when I heard that they were bringing out a new album…”. I was genuinely excited though!
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Their acoustic album “Flaws” was officially released on Monday 12th July but I had a preview copy on heavy rotation for a week and loving it. The album is a mature and beautiful step up for guys who are all around twenty years old. Think of a young Simon and Garfunkel but with more banjos, mandolins and folk harps and you’ll get the idea.
Tonight sees BBC take their first steps out in support of Flaws and head onto the altar of St Philips Church in Salford to play to the assembled congregation. A gig in a church is a rare but inspired setting especially for serene and folk based event where the acoustic structures serves to accentuate the tones of the hollowed out instruments as well as lead singer Jack’s effortlessly ethereal vocals.
Bombay Bicycle Club subtlety saunter onto the stage/ altar and assume their position on the wooden school chairs barely uttering a word and step into the first two tracks on the new album “Rinse Me Down” and “Many Ways”. This would prove to be the tone for the evening, letting the music do the talking rather than engaging in unholy banter.
A few tracks in Jack breaks his inter song banter embargo and invites the young audience to come closer and sit at the foot at the alter for a better view “come sit round here if you want” he suggests “we don’t mind!” They didn’t need to ask twice and within minutes there is a sizeable amount of people sat cross-legged, inches away from the stage and somewhat resembles a school assembly!
In a rather inspired move, the audience were issued a program of service, in-fitting with the church surroundings which contained lyrics to some of the songs in the set including lead single “Ivy and Gold” as wells as title track “Flaws” and “Dust on the Ground” which plays a big but altered role in each of their albums. The congregation are encouraged to sing along when it comes to these tunes but it proves difficult as each song is played with beautiful ease whilst the audience are almost dumbstruck with listening intent. The congressional silence is only broken at the end of each song which is greeted with rapturous applause.
It’s a welcome surprise to hear other acoustified versions of formerly electric tracks such as “Always Like This” and “Evening/Morning” as well as Martha Wainwright cover “Motel Blues” which provides insight into the inspiration for an acoustic album and show. During the show the only constant is Jack Steadman’s position front and centre on the altar sometimes with a banjo, sometimes by himself, whilst the BBC stage presence waxes and wanes with the song requirements. The instrument choice also varies with only drummer Suren sticking with his instrument. Guitarist Jamie and bassist Ed mix things up on the bass, guitar, mandolin, banjo and vocals. BBC are joined in some of the tracks such as “Flaws” by celtic harpist David Naftalin and vocalist Lucy Rose.
Overall the gig was quality and settings more than fit the bill. St Philips is no stranger to a show having hosted, “Laura Marling” and “Florence and the Machine” in the past. I’ll be looking out for other acts that have the notion to play here.