Being the last act to grace the stage at Earls Court before the bulldozers moved in was always going to be a tall order. This is the venue that has played host to Bowie, The Stones, Michael Jackson and Pink Floyd.
It’s an even taller order when Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour takes to the stage halfway through the gig for a mesmerising rendition of “Wish You Were Here”. “This man gave me my first guitar and was one of the first people to play this venue,” says Bombay Bicycle Club bassist Jamie MacColl (Gilmour’s an old family friend), “and by my count has played here more than 27 times.“
If Bombay Bicycle Club are daunted by their predecessors, they don’t show it. An exuberant crowd laps up the slick performance, moshing joyfully to the rockier numbers (if pausing and bashfully toeing the ground for the inevitable segways into dreamier tracks like “How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep”).
While they still could still be regarded as the new kids compared to the grandaddies of rock, the band, now on their fourth album, handle the cavernous venue with ease, even nonchalance. Their confidence (with hopefully some subtle self-deprecation) is evident in the opening video sequence of the evening, a spoof documentary looking back at the performance, featuring the band’s ‘fan club president’, Elbow’s Guy Garvey.
The band are known for reinventing themselves with every album, and this year’s, the number-one So Long, See You Tomorrow, has been widely regarded as their best incarnation. But the gig feels a little all over the place, veering wildly from Pet Shop Boys-style pop anthems to indie folk to psychedelic Bollywood.
Frontman Jack Steadman seems to revel in his unlikely rock god status, bouncing from glory poses to drum banging, but engaging very little with the audience. Not that they seem to mind, singing back to boppier classics “It’s Alright Now” and “Always Like This”.
Still, the energy seems a little off, and Gilmour’s early appearance only reinforces that. He plays lap steel guitar on the band’s “Rinse Me Down”, before moving without ceremony into the opening riffs of “Wish You Were Here”, resulting in the first “goosebumps” moment of the night. A magical experience, which leaves the rest of the evening feeling a little anti-climactic.
This is not to say that the evening is a damp squib - a brass section, pyrotechnics, and more rock solos than you’d ever expect from such a happy-go-lucky band ensure that it is far from dull. Female guest vocalists Lucy Rose, Rae Morris and Liz Lawrence add an ethereal quality to tracks including “Luna”, “Lights Out” and “Home By Now”.
The anthemic “Carry Me” rounds off the night, with the loyal crowd singing the chorus back. Will Bombay Bicycle Club’s gig go down in the Earls Court annals along with those of Led Zeppelin or Ziggy Stardust? Will it be the subject of documentaries of the future? Perhaps not, but 20,000-odd voices filling the 42,000sqm main hall make sure to give the venue one hell of a rousing send off.Reuse content