Bombay Bicycle Club Live @ Belfast's Mandela Hall

BBC have slowly grown into something approaching UK indie staples, but would they deliver on the Belfast leg of their UK tour?
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BBC have slowly grown into something approaching UK indie staples, but would they deliver on the Belfast leg of their UK tour?


BBC have had their fair share of criticism. Having reaped the usual NME hyperbolic plaudits of ‘hottest indie band you need to hear right now for fear of never being cool ever again’ and then winning a slot at the V Festival through the indie X Factor of Channel 4’s Road to V, it’s only right that any music fan who isn’t a mascara-laden teenager should approach this band with scepticism. Indeed, that this is a band coming through Belfast for the second time in 6 months on the back of the same album should give you some idea of priorities. It would be churlish to dismiss them so easily however. Their albums to date have shown an increasingly mature sound with the melodic folk of Flaws broadening their audience base along with their sound and the dark electronica of A Different Kind of Fix improving their range further still.

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Canadian band The Darcys took to the stage first, playing a sonorous and melodic set to a half-filled hall. The piano driven songs and tender vocals were thickened with delay induced squeals and gauzy synth lines. There was little interaction to engage the sparse crowd however, and a sound so heavy in warm atmospherics got lost in a cold room.

Up-and-comings Dog is Dead proved more successful in jostling the building rabble out of apathetic head nodding. Whilst the bowdlerised Nietzsche reference of their name was probably lost on the majority of their teenage fan base, their upbeat grooves and multi-layered vocal harmonies were not. You can see why these guys are doing well (they recently had a spot on Skins); the stage was cluttered with instruments, with one song benefiting from a saxophone lead line that had the potential to dissolve into ska levels of cheesiness but didn’t. Keys and synths wove their way in and out of wiry guitar lines and pulsing bass. Stop-start dynamics permeated most of their better songs and the fact that all 5 members can sing and harmonise produced a textured and varied sound, with soaring choruses, heavy breakdowns and a few handclapping sing-a-longs. The fact that they look like a grimier version of One Direction (or is it that One Direction look like a cleaner version of a modern indie band?) certainly won’t hurt their chances of getting plastered across the covers of indie music weeklies in the coming months.

And now for the main event. After an uplifting set by Dog is Dead, the energy levels were high for BBC. Coming out to ‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’, with its chiming guitars and hazy electronica felt slightly underwhelming. Whilst it was certainly note perfect, the band seemed to take a while to feel comfortable. Indeed, more material from the recent album seemed to lack bite and resonance, with slow burners ‘Lights Out, Words Gone’ and the post-punk tinged ‘Bad Timing’ sounding somewhat sparse. Even the addition of Lucy Rose’s vocals to the live set up, tambourine tapping lightly on her hip, didn’t detract from an opening light on presence.

the mostly female punters reacted in the expected manner when drummer Suren de Saram threw off his t-shirt.

It was only when they took to acoustic guitars and banjos for material from folk-heavy album Flaws did they begin to find their feet. Slightly electrified versions of ‘Rinse Me Down’ and ‘Ivy & Gold’ began to add punch to the sound and performance, and the mostly female punters reacted in the expected manner when drummer Suren de Saram threw off his t-shirt.

From here, the band moved into material from their first full-length I had the Blues…. This was an album met with a lukewarm response on release, however in a live setting, indie rocker ‘Cancel on Me’, complete with strobe lit breakdown, went down a storm and nobody ever looked back. The energy carried through to the finale, with an encore of ‘Shuffle’ and ‘What If’ leaving a pleasant warmth in the room that had, at times, been missing.


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