BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB + COACH PARTY – BRIGHTON CENTRE 3.2.24
Let’s get back in the swing of things, shall we? After my recent jaunt to The Hope & Ruin, catching Nukuluk headline a wide array of ‘Hidden Herd’ icons to round off last month, February sees my hype-o-meter increasing for 2024’s live music, starting with Saturday night at the Brighton Centre, with none other than nu-indie pop icons Bombay Bicycle Club! These guys, for me, have been one of those bands that have floated around my listening radar for years, but never making full orbit in the way that contemporaries of their generation have done such as alt-J, Everything Everything or even Foals. The band have trekking on-and-off for nearly 20 years since their 2005 inception, sans a three year hiatus from 2016, and enjoyed the release of six studio albums to date, with their 2009 debut ‘I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose’ riding shockwaves across the now socially-defunct MySpace kicking off their popularity. 2023 saw the release of their most recent album, ‘My Big Day’, a record that sees the band at their most eclectic and creative, as well as guest features from artists like Chaka Khan, Holly Humberstone and Damon Albarn.
My partner and I made it to the Brighton Centre in relatively good time following the 7pm doors, and grabbed our balcony seats as London-based DJ Chux provided essentially warm vibes for the crowd with the sounds of old-school hip hop, jazz and RnB. Time went surprisingly quickly before Isle of Wight quartet Coach Party made their way onto the Centre stage. Originally operating under the name Jeph (which I’m assuming is a portmanteau of Jess Eastwood and Steph Norris, the band’s two front members), Coach Party have spent a five year tenure releasing several EPs and singles under the Chess Club label before reaching their debut album, ‘Killjoy’ in September last year, of which most songs appear in the set. The band engage in thunderous waves of noise and flailing guitars as Jess greets the audience with a welcoming “How are you doing?!” before heading into the opening track ‘What’s The Point Of Life’. The track carries a strong Paramore vibe with Jess’ angsty vocals and a shoegazing indie rock array of sound. Drummer Guy Page and lead guitarist Joe Perry keep a strong pace, with the latter maintaining a very distinctive guitar tone, saturated and compressed to erratic beauty. The band transition faultlessly into the next track ‘FLAG (Feel Like A Girl)’, where Jess displays some sprechgesang vocals, warped and passionate in tone, while the overall guitar and groove work reminds me of a cross between 90s indie legends Sleater-Kinney and Dinosaur Jr.
It seems each subsequent song in the set gains more angst as the performance goes on with the song ‘Micro Aggression’ taking things a step further with various rhythm changes, fuzzed out guitars and even some screams in the chorus! However, the band take a quick breather on the song ‘All Of My Friends’ which has a more optimistic song structure, and a classically melodic indie pop aura to boot. The band play around with call and response guitar patterns as well as stellar time signature changes while the band’s on-site fifth member (name unknown) provides extra percussion in the form of tambourines and shakers. Despite the lukewarm communication between the band and the crowd, Jess takes a moment to show off her new flying-V bass guitar before heading into the incredibly weighty ‘Always Been You’, complete with gorgeous guitar tone and top band communication. Following this comes ‘Sweetheart’; definitely the strongest song of the set, it begins with slow guitar chords from Joe as Jess brings her slightly nasal vocal delivery closer to the crowd, with the rest of the band going in for an eventual build up that pays off expertly. The chorus is fuzzed to hell, packed with a pounding motorik drum rhythm that makes for a very intense climax. My personal favourite of the set, ‘Born Leader’ with its beautiful chord progression, makes me feel like I’m wandering around in summer moonlight. The bittersweet tone and silky smooth vocal melody in the chorus was certainly enough to win the Bombay Bicycle Club fans over if they weren’t already! A quick 180 change in mood on the grungier ‘All I Wanna Do Is Hate’ followed by the brief but fun ‘Parasite’ makes for a great way to close up shop with the former’s gnarly matching guitar and bass parts providing a strong backbone and the latter’s Lambrini Girls-like quality and punked out breakdowns kicking things into high gear one final time before the band depart.
Jess Eastwood – lead vocals, bass
Steph Norris – guitar
Joe Perry – lead guitar
Guy Page – drums
Coach Party setlist:
‘What’s The Point In Life’ (from 2023 ‘Killjoy’ album)
‘FLAG (Feel Like a Girl)’ (from 2022 ‘Nothing Is Real’ EP)
‘Micro Aggression’ (from 2023 ‘Killjoy’ album)
‘All Of My Friends’ (from 2023 ‘Killjoy’ album)
‘Always Been You’ (from 2023 ‘Killjoy’ album)
‘Sweetheart’ (from 2021 ‘After Party’ EP)
‘Born Leader’(from 2023 ‘Killjoy’ album)
‘All I Wanna Do Is Hate’ (from 2023 ‘Killjoy’ album)
‘Parasite’ (from 2023 ‘Killjoy’ album)
For the following half hour, we were treated to another hype set from DJ Chux, who warmed the crowd up with a tremendous selection of artists from Cypress Hill and Aretha Franklin to Snoop Dogg and even Brighton’s own Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim)’s ‘Praise You’ to wrap up and let the band take to the stage. The lights brighten up to a repeated vocal loop of “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 / All good children go to heaven”, indicating for Bombay Bicycle Club to kick off with ‘Just A Little More Time’, the opener to their new album. Streaks of confetti fire into the crowd and float across the auditorium as drummer Suren de Saram implements a funky 70s groove underneath big washes of horn arrangements and Mellotron synthesizers from the band’s backing members. This song, and the following ‘I Want To Be Your Only Pet’ are lyrically very simple, giving the band plenty of instrumental space to flex their creative muscles with a cinematic energy. ‘Overdone’ opens with these luscious violin samples which act as the backbone of the song’s melodic content, while the band themselves are now operating with a more indie rock flair that brings back memories for me of being 16 and diving headfirst into the world of alt-J. Right out of the gate, ‘Feel’ becomes a strong favourite of the set for me, possibly my favourite overall, with a solid samba rhythm and a colourful array of instrumentation from glistening square synths to the very lucid guitar motif provided by Jamie MacColl.
Frontman (and 21st century Thomas Dolby lookalike) Jack Steadman dedicates the title track from ‘My Big Day’ to anyone who’s celebrating their birthday before engaging in an early Glass Animals-type vibe with quirky keyboard arrangements and slightly off-kilter grooves; it’s a relatively short track, but fun nonetheless! ‘Tekken 2’, also from ‘My Big Day’ is portrayed in a more indie synthpop light with a LinnDrum-sounding propulsion to the drums as well as the inclusion of some fun rototom samples before the first chorus and a brief vocal solo from backing singer Olive Jones. Now, Bombay Bicycle Club fans rejoiced at the following song, ‘Lights Out, Words Gone’, as Jack welcomed regular BBC collaborator Lucy Rose to join on co-vocal duties. The pair of them, alongside the band and their associated backing members, now tinted by moody blue lighting, engage in a classic indie rock track; just through this song alone, I could hear and understand the influence the band had on a lot of upcoming indie bands of the time, particularly The 1975 with the slightly funky rhythm and static guitar riffs. Lucy sticks around for the following ‘Leave It’ which makes use of a stellar harmony arrangement between the two lead vocalists as well as interlocking guitars from Jack and Jamie.
‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’ features a gradual introduction that creates images of waking from a peaceful slumber before a downtempo drum rhythm kicks in alongside some tambourine percussion and a solid horn arrangement as per usual in this set! Jack states “If there’s any role models for not looking cool while also having a good time, it’s us”, when talking about their new album being a safe haven for just having fun no matter what. This brings us to ‘Diving’, one of the most joyfully playful songs of the set with a sunshine pop melody and Disney-like samples filling in the space around the band. Wonderful droning horns paint the last leg of the track before the band head into the title track from their 2020 album ‘Everything Else Has Gone Wrong’, a record that clearly forewarns the years of the pandemic…! This oddly bouncy, yet dark song plays with some fuzzy bass from Ed Nash, as well as some occasional wailing effects and woodblock percussion before evolving into a sturdy and danceable groove that gets the audience moving more and more. The flipside of this song-shaped coin is ‘Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You)’, from the same album, with a simplistic yet infectiously melodic chorus and 8-bit synth tones (and with my partner dancing in the seat next to me, I know I made a good call reviewing this show!).
The entire backing band depart leaving Jack, Jamie, Ed and Suren alone for ‘Evening/Morning’; taking into account that this was the band’s first ever single, this is an incredible statement in the show detailing their humble beginnings as an indie rock band. Naturally, this is the most thunderous track of the show, with gnarly drums and bass riffs that call back to the punch-drunk indie music of the 2000s in a captivating manner! As the song ends and the audience applaud, we find Jack on his lonesome for the next track, ‘Dust On The Ground’. A very bittersweet moment in the set, this song is sombre and rustic as Jack serenades the crowd on his acoustic guitar, with a lusciously soft vocal performance (the fact that Brighton, according to Jack, is one of the only crowds on their tour to sing along to this song proves that it’s the best city for music appreciation in the UK, just saying!). The entire band return for ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’, with a dynamically-evolving introduction of harmonies between Jack, Jamie and Olive, underneath a lovely chord progression. Following swells of horns and cymbals that adorn the song’s structure, the tempo increases as Jack heads to a small drum set up for himself, celebrated by more shots of confetti into the crowd!
Despite incorrectly introducing the song as ‘Meditate’ (subsequently corrected by his bandmates), ‘Carry Me’ is, by far, the strongest song of the set, rhythmically, reminding one of a weird Everything Everything-dancehall fusion with fantastically jerky rhythms that throw you around with glee (naturally a lot of people on shoulders during this number). The eventual ‘Meditate’ takes a rockier flavour to its mis-announced counterpart with syncopated rhythms from Suren and a smooth bassline from Ed, not to mention some fuzzy guitar passages courtesy of Jamie. The song segues, quite seamlessly, into the instrumental ‘Rural Radio Predicts The Rapture’, one of my personal favourite moments in the set, with some fanfare horn arrangements and a trippy 3/4 time signature. The band gets fruity with percussion, with Jack back on his little drum kit set-up and a wide array of shakers and tambourines… part of me wishes that this performance lasted a little long to really get the party in full swing! A big wave of cheers swarms through the crowd as the instantly recognisable tabla sample of the song ‘Luna’ comes into play. Chirpy synth lines and chorus layered guitars abound, the performance even gives way to some bright walls of sparklers on the backdrop in the final chorus!
Jack, on behalf of Bombay Bicycle Club, takes a moment to thank the crowd for all their love and support as they play the final song of their main set, ‘Shuffle’. A clear big fan favourite, the song’s heartfelt message and infectious chorus is a wonderfully encapsulating moment to end on as the crowd cheer them goodbye. Of course, the obligatory chants of “one more song!” begin to transmit across the Brighton Centre… but not for too long as we are treated to, not just one, but two more songs to take us home! The first of these, ‘Turn The World On’ is a lovely soft cut of acoustic guitars and country grooves, written for Jack’s two year old son, and carries a wonderfully optimistic message (something that in this current climate is vastly underappreciated)… oh, did I mention the massive balloons being released into the crowd from above towards the end?! The night ends on the indie classic itself, ‘Always Like This’, possibly the band’s most well-known song, exceedingly feel-good in tone and awash in bouncy riffs and melodies… how could they NOT finish with this song? Upon walking out of the Brighton Centre, I thought to myself about my own personal nature with this band; their music never made its way into my bubble (not for want of avoiding it mind you!) and yet I feel like I’ve known them all my teenage and young adult life! I commend the boys of Bombay Bicycle Club for finally winning my attention over and putting on an incredible show to get 2024 into action at last!
Bombay Bicycle Club:
Jack Steadman – lead vocals, guitar, piano
Jamie MacColl – guitar
Ed Nash – bass guitar
Suren de Saram – drums
Bombay Bicycle Club setlist:
‘Just A Little More Time’ (from 2023 ‘My Big Day’ album)
‘I Want To Be Your Only Pet’ (from 2023 ‘My Big Day’ album)
‘Overdone’ (from 2014 ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ album)
‘Feel’ (from 2014 ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ album)
‘My Big Day’ (from 2023 ‘My Big Day’ album)
‘Tekken 2’ (from 2023 ‘My Big Day’ album)
‘Lights Out, Words Gone’ (from 2011 ‘A Different Kind Of Fix’ album)
‘Leave It’ (from 2011 ‘A Different Kind Of Fix’ album)
‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’ (from 2011 ‘A Different Kind Of Fix’ album)
‘Diving’ (from 2023 ‘My Big Day’ album)
‘Everything Else Has Gone Wrong’ (from 2020 ‘Everything Else Has Gone Wrong’ album)
‘Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You)’ (from 2020 ‘Everything Else Has Gone Wrong’ album)
‘Evening/Morning’ (from 2009 ‘I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose’ album)
‘Dust On The Ground’ (from 2010 ‘Flaws’ album)
‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ (from 2014 ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ album)
‘Carry Me’ (from 2014 ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ album)
‘Meditate’ (from 2023 ‘My Big Day’ album)
‘Rural Radio Predicts The Rapture’ (from 2023 ‘My Big Day’ album)
‘Luna’ (from 2014 ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ album)
‘Shuffle’ (from 2011 ‘A Different Kind Of Fix’ album)
‘Turn The World On’ (from 2023 ‘My Big Day’ album)
‘Always Like This’ (from 2009 ‘I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose’ album)