Bombay Bicycle Club Dishes Up Indie-Rock Goodness at Royale

Photography by Nora Onanian

By Eden Unger, Staff Writer

Artist: Bombay Bicycle Club

Venue: Royale

When: Monday, March 18th



“Mustard Service” sounds like one of those courses in a fancy dinner they’d serve at a place called “Royale.” This is somewhat appropriate, seeing as they were something of an appetizer to Bombay Bicycle Club’s set on March 18th.

But names aren’t everything: Royale is more or less your standard, no-frills concert venue, and Mustard Service is a five-piece Floridian indie rock band that sounds like something the Beatles and the Beach Boys might dream up together if they all met up in some lounge in the 80s that played nothing but garage rock and Japanese jazz fusion. Their songs “Your Cat Don’t Stand a Chance,” “Oh, Honey Baby,” and “Always a Shame,” stood out to me as their best of the night, and well worth checking out.



But on to the main course: Bombay Bicycle Club, who are from London, not Bombay. Fronted by Jack Steadman, whose infectious smile hardly left his face for the duration of their set, the band put on a tour de force that weaved its way through each one of their albums. “Since we don’t come often,” Steadman told the crowd, “we thought we’d do one song from every record.” Bombay Bicycle Club is a group with range; they’ve trafficked in a number of genres from folk, to straight ahead rock, to electronica, and have made each genre a well-worn stomping ground. 

With six albums and four EPs, the band had a lot of territory to cover, but as the night went on and the crowd sang along to more and more of the songs, it became apparent that their fans were more than willing to come along for the ride. This was in spite of the audience being, “The most hungover crowd we’ve ever played to in our career,” by Steadman’s estimation (being it day one post-St. Paddy’s).

The first two songs of the set, “Just A Little More Time,” and “I Want to Be Your Only Pet,” which happen to be the first two songs of the band’s most recent album, My Big Day, set the tone for the night. “Just A Little More Time” seemed pretty lowkey, with Steadman’s slightly distorted voice singing the song’s title on loop, that is, until the last minute of the song when BAM! The rest of the band shifts into high gear, and Steadman is joined by a chorus of voices that propel a wordless refrain to stage-filling proportions. “I Want to Be Your Only Pet,” features loose and floaty, almost vocoded vocals, over a steady, driving drum beat, and a saucy yet powerful guitar riff.



Usually, the band is made up of four members — Steadman, guitarist Jamie MacColl, bassist Ed Nash, and drummer Suren De Saram. Monday night at The Royale however, things were a little bit different. Due to a family emergency, Saram had been called away over the weekend, so the band’s drum tech, Josh P. Gale, subbed in. In spite of the lineup change, the band still felt cohesive, and despite their scattering across the stage, like equal components of a music machine greater than the sum of its parts.

Bombay Bicycle Club is quick to give credit where credit is due. While prefacing their song “Tekken 2,” Steadman talked about how they had played the demo to Damon Albarn, who told them they should get Chaka Khan on the song. It sounded easier said than done, but Albarn made some calls, and it turned out to be “the craziest thing that’s ever happened” to the band. Of course they couldn’t take Khan on tour with them, but Olive Jones helped the band perform it live. Jones, who toured with the band in 2019, also sang backup vocals and accompanied Steadman on two stripped-down duets “Flaws” and “You Already Know.” 



This show was a bit of a full circle moment for me. I fell in love with Bombay Bicycle Club’s song “How Can You Follow So Much Sleep” in my senior year of high school, and have had it on repeat ever since. Finally seeing it live, as well as the rest of the band’s discography, was both personally and musically satisfying. It helps that it’s also just an objectively great song, and I wasn’t the only one in the crowd who thought so; after the big finale, Steadman held out the microphone towards the audience, and we all sang “Could you back me up,” as the song faded out.

Another crowd favorite was “Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You),” off of 2020’s Everything Else Has Gone Wrong. The song revolves around repeated choruses where Steadman sings the title over and over. Before beginning, he invited the crowd to join him, “We want to hear those three words!”

The show was over far too soon for anyone’s liking, but for the encore they played “Shuffle,” a fan favorite from the same 2011 album as “How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep.” When they walked back out, they were joined by Mustard Services’ Leo Cattani, who played along on trumpet. “This is our last chance to sing together,” Steadman warned the crowd.

“Shuffle” has this sort of jaunty, chopped and screwed piano riff that underscores the whole song, giving it a bounce that had people moving, even as they willed the band to keep playing. As much as we might wish it was “Always Like This,” the show had to end eventually, and then it was “Lights Out, Words Gone.”

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