As Bombay Bicycle Club singer Jack Steadman walked up to the microphone in the middle of the band's show, he lifted his hands above his head. The sound of a church organ filled the crowded Crescent Ballroom as his bandmates slowly worked toward the finale of the title track of the band's latest album, So Long, See You Tomorrow. Steadman, with his shirt buttoned all the way up to his neck and his hair over his eyes, resembled a traveling faith healer, stopping this time to prey on the goodwill of Phoenix hipsters. He knew he had everyone's attention.
Problem is, Steadman was preaching to the converted. For a band that played Coachella a few days earlier, there didn't seem to be any shortage of energy on stage. On paper, the band's eclectic discography, which ranges from punk to indie to acoustic folk, implies that this group of 20-something musicians has something to prove. But when they took the stage, they were just a group of mates just having fun. They switched from Bollywood to blues on a dime, and their strategy kept the audience guessing from one song to the next.
With the disco ball spinning overhead, the band went into their dreamy number "Come To," creating a shadowy romantic sonic landscape that would have made Johnny Marr jealous. Subdued selections such as this and the hit "How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep" were just as electrifying as the uptempo "Evening/Morning," which showcased the bass skills of Ed Nash. "Home By Now" added reggae to the growing list of genres that the band draws from. No matter the musical style, the crowd cheered the group on. If anyone came in with a case of the Mondays, it was cured by Steadman and company. Hallelujah!
The one track from their new album that is garnering attention is "Feel," which has a distinct Asian influence. It's a standout track on So Long, See You Tomorrow, and the accompanying video has gone viral because of its joyous depiction of a Bollywood wedding. When played live though, something lacked. The number felt slightly forced, and the audience picked up on it immediately. It's the one song they played that is sample-heavy. Something got lost in the translation.
The groove was back quickly with "Lights Out, Worlds Gone," a enjoyable number that showcased a distinctive groove that had even those outside the confines of the 21 and under section dancing together. When Steadman announced he was going to play the quietest song on the album, he sat like a fourth grader at a piano recital and played "Eyes Off You," a duet of sorts that combines Steadman's falsetto with the wispy vocals of Liz Lawrence. The somber romantic tone built to a rousing bombastic finish.
Steadman joked he could hear a mariachi band in his ear during the song and dedicated the next tune, the Sufjan Stevens-esque "Wherever, Whenever," to Shakira. The joke's punchline wasn't truly realized until the houselights went up and the hip-shaking reality show judge's similar titled hit played on the PA system. Before the crowd dispersed, drummer Suren de Saram raised his hands up as he stomped on the pedal of his bass drum as the band came out to play for their encore "What If" from their first album If I Had The Blues I Shook Them Loose. The rhythm-heavy "Carry Me" closed the set as listeners writhed and shook as they were overtaken by Bombay Bicycle Club's music. No one left the same as they came in.
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Royal Canoe was a fitting opening band. The six-piece was a funkier version of Animal Collective or a avant-garde P-Funk. Royal Canoe's opener "Today We're Believers" was a solid
Last Night: Bombay Bicycle Club/Royal Canoe at the Crescent Ballroom
Personal Bias: I tend to be let down by "buzz bands," but after interviewing guitarist Jamie MacColl last week I knew there was something more going on here.
The crowd: It's a school night, kids! Overheard in the Crowd: "They were much better last time they were here." Really?