Published May 04, 2014Although they've been mainstays of the UK festival circuit and practically sold out arenas since their inception in 2005, anthemic British rock act Bombay Bicycle Club have somewhat eluded North American audiences during their nearly decade-long career. With a more accessible album in tow (and an apparent increase in alt-rock radio play), the Crouch End quartet (a sextet live) returned to Toronto to play a set that relied heavily on the band's latest LP, So Long, See You Tomorrow.
Starting out the night was groove-heavy Manitoban pop outfit Royal Canoe, who had an up-and-down 2013 that included the release of their second studio album, Today We're Believers and having all their gear stolen, to opening the entirety of the dates on Bombay Bicycle Club's North American tour. Obviously enchanted by the idea of playing to a much larger crowd at the Danforth Music Hall, the soulful Winnipeg six-piece brought their A-game, delivering an amorphous set of old and new classics that fully showcased the band's complex use of polyrhythms and subdued instrumentation. Tracks like "Birthday" and the six-minute orchestral funk epic "Bathtubs" showed intense levels of control from the group and sounded similar to their recorded efforts, but much of the set fell on flat ears, as an overly talkative crowd battled for space amongst the sold-out auditorium.
After a quick hiatus (which included an overly enthusiastic audience sing-along to Bon Jovi's "Livin' On a Prayer"), Bombay Bicycle Club strolled onto the stage as the opening strains of "Overdone" filled the hall. Following up with the fluttery synth stabs of "It's Alright Now" and the MPC-assisted "Shuffle," frontman Jack Steadman slowly strummed his way through the R&B-inflected shoegaze of "Come To" before raising the audience off their feet with the lovelorn melodies of "Your Eyes."
Although the set was dominated by the band's newest tunes, the group were still able to lose their backing trigger pad players long enough to let loose on I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose's "Lamplight" and "Evening/Morning," giving longtime fans enough guitar riffs to keep them occupied as they progressed into their more sleepy material.
With seven circular disks floating above their heads remaining vacant for the majority of the set, the venue's projector sprung to life just in time for "How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep" and the block-rocking beats of "Home By Now," giving viewers a bit of eye candy to feast on during an otherwise visually unstimulating set.
The Middle Eastern melodies of "Feel" brought the crowd back to life, what with its hypnotic instrumentals and overhead animation of an eagle swallowing a lizard ad nauseam, as did festival favourite "Lights Out, Words Gone," but things took a turn once Steadman removed his guitar and sat down at his keyboard. Thanking local FM radio stations Indie 88.1 and 102.1 the Edge for introducing a chunk of tonight's attendees to the band, the frontman failed to hush a rowdy crowd during the plaintive piano ballad "Eyes Off You" and its stylistic companion "Whenever, Wherever," leading to more than a few arguments between angry audience members.
"Luna" and fourth album throwaway "So Long, See You Tomorrow" capped off the band's initial set, but after a short break the group's original core members returned to play set-ending scorcher "What If." Watching Steadman and lead guitarist Jamie MacColl share blistering riffs alongside Ed Nash's nuanced bass playing and drummer Suren de Saram's full-throttled hi-hat work, it was clear fans from the band's math-y, post-hardcore inspired years are few and far between these days, as most of the audience either stood perfectly still or checked their cellphones during the song (although set ender "Carry Me" found a nice middle ground).
While their new live performances seem a bit more detached from their guitar-driven days, Bombay Bicycle Club's Saturday night set perfectly catered to the band's newfound fans. Whether you liked the show or not probably depended on which group of fans you fell into.
Photo Gallery: FB, g+