Photos and review by Morgan Ciocca
Following a multi-year hiatus, London-based indie rock band Bombay Bicycle Club has made a triumphant return. The group stopped in Chicago at the House of Blues on Tuesday, Oct. 1 while touring in support of their new album, “Everything Else Has Gone Wrong,” with openers The Greeting Committee.
Bombay Bicycle Club, consisting of vocalist and guitarist Jack Steadman, guitarist Jamie MacColl, drummer Suren de Saram and bassist Ed Nash, announced via Twitter in 2016 that they had stopped making music as a group … indefinitely.
“We aren’t breaking up,” the band wrote, “but after ten years of doing this – and it being the only thing we’ve known since the age of 16 – we thought it was time for all of us to try something else.”
The four went their separate ways professionally; Steadman began solo project Mr. Jukes, while Nash and de Saram worked on the band Toothless, and MacColl attended King’s College to earn a degree in War Studies as well as Cambridge University for his master’s in Philosophy.
Throughout their lengthy career, Bombay Bicycle Club released an extensive collection of music. Their four full-length albums, released over a span of five years, have been groundbreaking within the indie music community, and their musical evolution as a group is particularly intriguing; the band started out making music in the indie rock genre with their masterful 2009 album, “I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose,” eventually transitioning into more electronic-influenced sounds, evident in 2014’s “So Long, See You Tomorrow.”
The four musicians showed no indication that Bombay Bicycle Club would ever return – until they announced their permanent reunion in January, nearly four years after their break began. The band additionally revealed the name of a fifth studio album in the works, “Everything Else Has Gone Wrong,” on Sep. 3, shortly following the Aug. 27 release of single “Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You).”
“Playing together again is such an unexpected surprise for the 4 of us and yet from the first moment we started rehearsing it felt as natural as if we’d played a show the night before,” the band stated in a formal album announcement. “We feel a freshness playing live that can only come from having taken a step back.”
Bombay Bicycle Club began their tour in late September, just four weeks after releasing the new single.
As they took the stage at House of Blues on Oct. 1, the band immediately dove into the opening track of “I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose,” a short, rock-oriented instrumental piece titled “Emergency Contraception Blues.” The venue pulsated with excited screams and flashing white lights as intense guitar riffs and thrashing drums left ears ringing, only adding to the audience’s already high anticipation for the remainder of the set.
“Emergency Contraception Blues” faded out, leaving scarcely a moment to take a breath before the musicians started up one of their more well-known songs, “Shuffle.” True to the sonic theme of 2011 album “A Different Kind of Fix,” “Shuffle” is a song which, while remaining rooted in the indie genre, incorporates many electronic and synthesizer elements to create a rhythm truly unique to this album.
Every audience member was entranced by the set’s opening few minutes; the band was renewed with a fresh enthusiasm for their performance, radiating an aura of genuine happiness as they performed a compilation of songs ranging from brand new to 10 years old.
Musician Liz Lawrence joined the band onstage as lead vocalist alongside Steadman during several of the show’s most breathtaking songs – including “Luna,” “Lights Out, Words Gone” and “Home By Now.” Lawrence’s vocals strongly enhanced the band’s set, contributing a dreamlike quality which permeated throughout the entire performance; her voice had an ethereal power that even the band’s official recordings are unable to capture accurately.
As “Luna” faded out, the room was flooded with the opening notes of “Always Like This” and the audience erupted into a joyous uproar. Steadman held the microphone out to the crowd at the end of the first verse for many excited fans to scream at the top of their lungs the lyrics, “It’s always like this!”
“I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose,” the album featuring “Always Like This,” was written when many of the band’s members were still teenagers. For the group, the album still manages to keep a firm grasp on the same emotions and memories it originally drew inspiration from. It is indeed likely that “I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose” acts in a similar way for all those who feel connected to it – whether they heard the album when it was first released or discovered it after the band had already gone on hiatus. The lyrics throughout the entire album are deeply personal and emotional, and “Always Like This” is no exception; dance-worthy yet raw, “Always Like This” has certainly earned its place as the band’s most-listened-to song.
The musicians exited the stage amid deafening cheers and a dazzling light show, leaving the audience drenched in sweat and thirsty for more. After a minute or two of demands for an encore, the band returned with “Carry Me,” an energetic electronic track drawing influences from house and dance music, as the final song of the night. Breathless after their finale, the band took a bow and house lights rose once again. The theater was left in a daze as the masses began to file out, still under a spell as though everyone were sleepwalking and Bombay Bicycle Club’s set had been a dream all along.
Bombay Bicycle Club will continue touring until February 2020, and will perform “I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose” in full Nov. 4 – 8 in celebration of its 10-year anniversary. Their new album, “Everything Else Has Gone Wrong,” is currently available for pre-order and is scheduled for release Jan. 17.