Getting us started tonight are Nottingham 5-piece Dog is Dead, who are pleasant enough and deliver a set high on melodic indie pop, showcasing songs from their still relatively new EP Your Childhood. While not leaving the strongest of impressions, a couple of tracks create a stir, with ‘Glockenspiel Song’ being the unsurprising highlight of their set.
Second in this ménage a trois of indie purism are the bombastic but incredibly passionate Dry the River. Utterly captivating, they deliver a set very much inspired by early Arcade Fire and share a similar patch of territory with Australian contemporaries The Middle East. If you know anything about either of the above mentioned, then you’d be right in assuming Dry the River cover virtually every necessary base to create sublime indie-folk. With passionate vocals, a slightly ramshackle arrangement that delivers as much power as fragility, they succeeded in whetting the appetites of everyone inside. Let’s hope for their sake however, that perennial acoustic bores Mumford and Sons haven’t terminally destroyed everyone’s interest in rootsy, heart-on-sleeve pop.
Finally, we have eagerly anticipated headliners Bombay Bicycle Club (BBC for the ease of purpose). Hot off the back of third album A Different Kind of Fix, they find themselves halfway through an academy level tour, having to entertain enormous crowds – no mean feat for a group of lads still in their early 20’s. But surely helped by a multitude of prominent festival slots over the summer, any fears had over their ability to command such a large venue are quickly dead and buried. Coming on to House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ is a bold statement from the band, probably the usual cliché about not being pigeonholed, but regardless this seems a little too jarring. Whatever, this minor stunt is quickly forgotten as soon as the opening piano jangles of ‘Shuffle’ starts. As perhaps the danciest track in their repertoire, it’s a canny move that gets the more than willing audience moving right from the start.
It’s a fitting start, as the set they play is a nice balance of tracks from all 3 albums. ‘Evening/Morning’ and ‘Open House’ provide the more raucous moments from their earlier work and debut album, while plenty of others provide the delicacy, with ‘Ivy and Gold’ as breezy as ever, and ‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’ downright haunting. While many bands would appear as inconsistent as they do varied, BBC’s live set comes out as robust and accomplished. Perhaps the only criticism of the show is the sound level throughout. A large cavernous space like the O2 academy does take a lot of filling in terms of noise, but a little extra kick would have helped the dancier and more aggressive tracks a great deal. But every cloud has a silver lining, and this did allow everyone to hear just what a tight and competent band they are musically. If they weren’t – and the sound was still this low – they would have been in big trouble. But, this is Bombay Bicycle Club, and their ability to overcome a problem that would have killed off worse bands is testament to their true quality.