Bombay Bicycle Club, Bournemouth, 2020

I don’t do much exciting, but one of my presents from J last year was two tickets to go and see Bombay Bicycle Club. A band I have had had fanboy moments over for many years, but usually in waves. Of course, when they announced they’d split years ago I was a little disappointed, but didn’t think anything of it. I knew they’d be back. I was right.

The new album is good fun. It’s not as good as So Long See You Tomorrow, but not much could be. I’m probably one of the few fans around who think that was actually their peak. They matured as they aged, and there almost isn’t a bad song on it. The earlier stuff is raw and energetic, belting indie rock at times. But SLSYT is clever. More adult. So as a smart arse, it was always my favourite.

So going to see a band that I have not full knowledge of the back catalogue was always going to be risky. I made it my duty to look at old setlists, courtesy of what was my temporary obsession, and looked at what tracks they played regularly, and made it my duty to learn more. I wasn’t disappointed, in fact, found some new ones I now love, and reminded me of ones I had a passing memory of.

We left work early – leaving the office in the not-capable hands of our (Tuesday only) assistant – eagerly listening to the playlist I’d made of the likely setlist. Spotify badly let us down, but what else is new. We snacked on car goodies, sugar caramel chocolate squares, and I tried again to remember all the words to Eat Sleep Wake.

We arrived early, very early, dressed wholly inappropriately for the freezing conditions, but very much appropriately for a sweaty gig. I had found a close enough car park for us to walk the last 2 mins, and we pre-gig feasted on McDonalds veggie wraps, courtesy of a deal that day. Everything was looking good for a Good Day.

We finished and joined the queue, but where was everyone? I couldn’t believe my luck, we were first, and we were only there an hour before the doors opened. Me in a long sleeve t-shirt, J in a short sleeve. It was freezing cold. Genuinely. I had never been so cold. But it was worth it.

First in. At the front. We waited patiently. The building itself was also freezing. Even the support act complained how cold it was. They were good fun.

It soon warmed up when BBC arrived, playing Eat Sleep Wake. I think I remembered all the words, and then for the rest of the gig realised how few lyrics I knew for the other tracks, especially considering it was basically my set list with a enhanced bit in the middle. For someone who actually prides himself on how good my memory is for song words, I felt embarrassed.

The band were technically stunning, especially as it was still early in the tour at the time, but you wouldn’t have known it. The song choices were great, and well balanced going from noisy to quiet. And they did the fans a good service by only playing about 1/3rd of the setlist from the new album. They craftily introduced a brass section to many of the songs, and it worked well, especially for Feel, maybe one of my favourite songs.

There were a few issues… I know BBC are hardly an outgoing band, but they had basically zero audience interaction. If the lead singer is shy, which he is, then you normally need your guitarist to step up to the mic. Instead they let the music do the talking. No messages. No patronisation. No jokes. No local quips. Just music. You get what you paid for, in other words. But I didn’t feel much of a connection, despite standing basically one metre away from them. I’m not really asking for much. Just to feel like I’m part of the clique. BBC are that type of band, after all.

Maybe standing at the front didn’t actually help either. I’m the type who likes to jump a bit, but I didn’t feel I could, cos I’d block others. People to the left and the right almost remained motionless throughout, and I’m really not sure why they were there. Some wanker tried to push in, when there was no room to push into. I resisted, and he went away. Behind me looked more lively, but actually I might not have liked that either. You can’t win, in other words. I didn’t feel too involved in the moment. I felt like it was my own private moment. It didn’t feel like a shared experience. Maybe it didn’t need to.

Then there’s the behaviour of other people. I know gigs are pretty wild sometimes, but BBC really don’t attract that type of crowd. Or so I thought. Drinking pints of vodka, chucking it into the air at any moment. I was fortunate not to get drenched at this gig, which I have done at basically all others, but that was only through the happy accident of where I was standing. At the end of the gig there were hundreds of discarded plastic glasses everywhere, with their formerly-held liquids all over the place. Not nice. I would have been pretty fucked off if any of that had ended up on me. I know people like to lose their shit, but they really don’t care.

The gig ended at a very respectable 10:30, BBC only having come on stage about 9. I suppose that’s enough for most people, and we had to rush back to bed, arriving just before midnight. The musical experience was amazing, I just wish I had spent more time learning the words to sing along, and I wish the people near me seemed like they actually wanted to be there. But I suppose in a toss-up between boring bastards and drink-swilling louts I suppose I know what I’d prefer.

For days afterwards I was heavily ear-wormed by many of the tracks, including Home By Now, but at the irritating lower key they did it in. I still can’t shake it now. But I did shake the blues loose.

For a short while I then wanted to go to another of their gigs. But no, once in a lifetime is probably enough. They were fantastic, and anyone who loves their music should see them, you will feel right at home. But I can’t honestly say I would like to see any other band. J and I discussed it on the way home and several times since. I don’t like anyone else enough. And I wouldn’t want to go to huge venues. This one was just about right. But too far away to make this a regular spot. Such is the delights of living where we do.

Bombay Bicycle Club at the O2 Academy Bournemouth, 21 January 2020. Were you there? What did you think? I’d say 8.5/10, and really one of those points wasn’t their fault (the people around me), but what can you do? I think being at the front perhaps is both a blessing and a curse…