As far as historic music venues go that have seen Bowie, Zeppelin and Queen play within its cavernous walls, Bombay Bicycle Club might seem like a whimsical choice to take the stage of Earls Court for the last time. But if the band are daunted by the honour, then they don’t show it, skewering themselves - and the gig - in a mockumentary screened before the gig, which shows them looking back at the night twenty-odd years from now, long after the Art Deco building is razed to the ground and presumably replaced by luxury flats. It’s this tongue-in-cheek irreverence that indicates that the Londoners are the perfect act to bid farewell to the iconic London concert hall, and they spend the rest of the night proving that in their own intricate way.
With a setlist that rifles through four albums’ worth of songs, the band put all their incarnations on show, zigzagging between acoustic folk to straightforward indie-rock through to the more layered and complex sounds of their last two records, all with a little help from their friends. Guest collaborators Lucy Rose, Rae Morris and Liz Lawrence feature throughout like ethereal sirens, whilst Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd fame makes a surprise appearance first on ‘Rinse Me Down’ and then a rendition of ‘Wish You Were Here’ which is absolutely loved by the crowd. Elsewhere, a jazzy and festive brass section livens up mainstay ‘Always Like This’ and adds a party feel to the Bollywood-sampling ‘Feel’, which sees punters tripping the light fantastic with glee. The ‘Club are experts at quieter, hushed moments though, and a reverential version of ‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’ sweeps across the venue with its warm beauty, whilst a spirited rendition of ‘Ivy & Gold’ is as cute and kitsch as the animations that play on the giant screens throughout the night.
It’s a shame then that the sound levels aren’t quite right and the gig is intermittently plagued by a sludgey sound which admittedly, works in the band’s favour at times - such as the chugging, distorted guitar work on ‘Evening/Morning’ - but makes the songs sound muffled and echoic at others. It doesn’t appear to dent anyone’s enjoyment of the night, however, and high spirits are in abundance; ‘Luna’ and ‘Always Like This’ are sang back with love, and hearing thousands sing “I’m not whole, I’m not whole, ohh you waste it all” on the latter is enough to send a chill down your spine.
Closing the encore on ‘Carry Me’, as frenzied and taut as the seizure-inducing light show that accompanies it, ends the night on a manic, carnivalesque vibe, paying, in frontman Jack Steadman’s own words, “a fitting tribute” to the end of an era in the wholly vibrant and unsentimental way the band do so well. Farewell, Earls Court.
Photos: Carolina Faruolo
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