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alexcooper
29th February 2024

Bombay Bicycle Club live in Manchester: Indie heroes rise to the occasion

The alliterative heroes return to Manchester to tour their new album, My Big Day – and the results were pretty moving
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Bombay Bicycle Club live in Manchester: Indie heroes rise to the occasion
Credit: Antonio Ross @ The Mancunion

Like all the great bands to levitate over the so-called ‘landfill’ indie scene, Bombay Bicycle Club acknowledge the past and don’t wish to shut the door on it. They’ll soon enter their third decade as a band, and they took their birthday party stage show to Manchester’s O2 Apollo.

It’s a venue that has heritage and is engineered to please the audience. From the die-hard fans in the front row, to the resale tickets in the back corners of the balcony, the worn-down, old-fashioned building has music in the cement that the bricks are laid upon. Enchanting.

First up were KAWALA, a North London-born, Leeds-nurtured indie band whose general outlook seemed pretty optimistic. They played a lovely support slot with easy on the ear, guitar-led pop with a clear talent for melody. KAWALA were an acoustic outfit first, and only later plugged in. Their stripped-back foundations make for solid songs.

After a slightly bemusing DJ set (or should I say Bombay mix?) of US hip hop, soul, and Fatboy Slim, it was time to see what Bombay Bicycle Club had in store for us. The Beatles played the Apollo in their early days of touring, and so it was fitting that Bombay Bicycle Club walked on to a reworked outro of ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’. “1 2 3 4 5 6 7, all good children go to heaven”.

Opening with two tracks from the new album My Big Day, Bombay Bicycle Club filled the room with euphoria, nuance, and energy. They aren’t the most explosive of bands; far from it. But their music has staying power. They have songs that will live alongside you and sometimes inhabit you.

bombay bicycle club
Credit: Antonio Ross @ The Mancunion

The first highlight of the set was the titular single to their new album, ‘My Big Day’, a minimalist, loud-quiet-employing ode to doing what you choose to do. “It’s my big day, and I’m wasting it away, gladly.” Frontman Jack Steadman fidgeted his way through the song. The birthday party aesthetic came to life at this moment, the show working conceptually and musically.

After Bombay Bicycle Club meandered through a few more fan favourites (‘Lights Out, Words Gone’, ‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep?’), and revisited their 2020 work which just about got performed in Manchester before the pandemic, it was time to let the past come in.

bombay bicycle club
Credit: Antonio Ross @ The Mancunion

The band became overtly noisy for the first time in the set while performing the classic ‘Evening / Morning’, their first single. It stopped and started dynamically as the audience shouted over Steadman, gladly raising his arm at the defiant call of “I am ready to owe you anything.” Afterwards, we got the other side of the band’s early work, with a solo acoustic rendition of ‘Dust on the Ground’, reworked for their second album, Ivy and Gold.

The lights show was hypnotic. The band were at home, and as the theme suggested, having a party. A particularly rousing rendition of ‘Carry Me’ saw the band through the main set, exiting the stage to pretend to never return.

bombay bicycle club
Credit: Antonio Ross @ The Mancunion

When they inevitably did, they placed their ace card. 2009 single ‘Always Like This’ was anthemic, and a total delight. Huge balloons were batted around the Apollo as the crowd led the chant of “I’m not whole,” the band never tiring from the moment of connection.

While we may not be whole, something was complete in the Ardwick theatre. A room full of different people, all converging to sing the cries of teenagers from Crouch End. Huge balloons were batted around the Apollo as the nine-piece took a bow, and I fought back a tear. Not bad.

Alex Cooper

Alex Cooper

Head Music Editor and Writer for the Mancunion. Once walked past Nick Cave in Zagreb. Enquiries: [email protected]

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