After Bombay Bicycle Club played Earl’s Court at the end of 2014, they said they wouldn’t do much in 2015. They argued that, with the amount of touring and recording they’d done in the last 5 years, they needed a year off, which was totally fair. It was as a result of this that we were more excited than usual to see they were headlining a new one-day festival in London. Already considering buying tickets, we were convinced when we saw that Ben Howard would join them as co-headliners. Bombay and Ben Howard. The stage was set for a perfect day of sun, music and relaxation in London’s Victoria Park.
The festival itself had a wonderful atmosphere and it didn’t feel like it was in the middle of London. The main problem was that the park was difficult to find as there weren’t any signposts on the way and we had to walk miles to get there. After walking miles we weren’t even able to get in straight away because nobody had told us we had to queue up to exchange our e ticket for a ticket just so we could give that ticket back as soon as they let us in. So, that all felt a little pointless. However, when we got into the festival the atmosphere was really great. There were lots of different activities laid on with volleyball, skipping, table tennis and many more. Therefore, it could be said that it would be a great festival for families or just for anyone who enjoys to have a bit of fun whilst listening to good live music. The choice of food was varied so it had something for everyone, even for us both being vegetarian. Overall, the festival vibe was very enjoyable.
Having already seen Bombay in the early evening spot at a festival, we knew what to expect. A prompt start, rack through the hits with a few album tracks from So Long, See You Tomorrow (it doesn’t matter which – all could be singles!) and leave without overrunning. They would be full of energy, they would make the place dance and they would sound outstanding. Even though we knew all that, they still exceeded expectations. In terms of the times we’ve seen them, it was better than T but as it wasn’t their show, it wasn’t as good as Earl’s Court.
About half-way through the set, I realised I would give anything to be one of the 4 (6? Can’t forget Liz and Louis. Ok, possibly 9 then if you include the Brass Notes…). This isn’t usual for me; I don’t really have a burning desire to be anyone else. It’s just, I thought, here are 4 (ok, let’s not get into that again!) young men (sorry Liz) who don’t seem to have any egos, who aren’t corrupted by fame but who have undoubted talent and who have such a fun time playing good songs to an appreciative crowd. They come on stage, and leave an hour – an hour a half later delivering music which borders on perfection. They seem to really enjoy their music, they seem to be happy with whom they are and they seem to be really genuinely nice people. There’s a hell of a lot to admire about Bombay Bicycle Club.
As expected, their set was incredibly similar to what they played at T. In fact, the only difference was replacing Come To with Wherever, Whenever, which underlines two things. Firstly, they are good enough to get away with replacing one of my favourite songs by them and I still think it was better than T! Secondly, it shows what depth So Long has as an album. They could have played Come To, Whenever, Wherever, Eyes Off You or even the title track and all would have sounded as good as the other. For the record, I think Whenever, Wherever was definitely the right one to pick as it works incredibly well live. Like Earl’s Court, the highlight was Home By Now. I think Jack and Liz’s voices work so well together, hopefully she’ll become a permanent touring member – she adds a lot to Bombay. All in all it was excellent, and Jack was in particular good form, saying before Always Like This that we should join in with his Dad dancing. It’s almost like he’s read my Earl’s Court review! If you’re reading this Jack – your Dad dancing is amazing, certainly better than mine which must have entertained and embarrassed those around us in equal measure. I could see Bombay Bicycle Club live every day of my life and not get bored of it. They are truly spectacular.
Funnily enough, on both occasions that we’ve seen Ben Howard he’s been following Bombay Bicycle Club. There’s always been a part of me that knew Citadel would put it that way around and hence there’s always been a part of me that thought I might be a tad disappointed. It’s almost certain they got the order wrong but was I disappointed? Definitely not. I thought Ben Howard was absolutely fantastic and warranted his later evening slot.
Like we knew what to expect from Bombay, we also knew what to expect from Ben. It didn’t take much – simply reading about his most recent gigs and watching his Glastonbury performance. We knew that most of the songs would be from his second album, that he wouldn’t play Only Love and would end with Burgh Island EP song Esmerelda (tbh, we aren’t sure that he did – we think so as we didn’t know the song he closed with). There’s nothing wrong with this approach if you have a voice and talent as good as Ben’s however there is still a nagging part of me that argues it isn’t acceptable for a festival. I don’t know what has happened to him and his relationship with his first album songs, but I don’t think I care as much anymore. His second album is an incredible piece of work and why shouldn’t he showcase it? Maybe it’s not acceptable for festivals but then it’s still a good way to promote your music. Furthermore, the crowd were singing along to a lot of it, proving that he was doing something right.
We weren’t as tired as when we saw him at T and hence we enjoyed this gig a lot more. It also helped that we actually knew his new songs, if not a lot, enough to enjoy hearing them. He is a wonderful musician, who clearly enjoys playing music. You can feel the emotion he puts into his songs and how he gets lost in them. It’s sometimes difficult to understand what he says, he speaks quietly, however that doesn’t really matter. For me, my highlight wasn’t one of the first album songs – it was Conrad. Maybe I didn’t realise it at the time but I haven’t stopped listening to it since I got back so clearly it made a positive impact on me! When reaching the end of the set, he played a stripped back version of The Fear. I’m still not totally sure of it but he made it sound good and then we forgot about it as he played The Wolves in the encore – a surprise I didn’t see coming! There were only four songs from his debut album (those 2 plus Black Flies and Keep Your Head Up), with 8 from his second; a cover and we think Esmerelda at the end. Sometimes you wish he would play more hits, but then he is whom he is and I like him. Oh, and when you have a drummer as crazy as his you can’t go wrong. Both him and Bombay Bicycle Club were worth all the stress getting to and from the park as well as the ridiculously early start the next day.
In conclusion, the live music and the atmosphere of the festival were both extremely great. The only criticisms of the festival is the lack of signposts and not telling people that they would have to exchange e tickets upon arrival.