It’s amazing how paradoxical happiness on a rainy day can feel. Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of a dreary grey night and the compassion of a smile, or the stark contrast between the cool drizzle and the warm glee that emanates from within. The Pacific Northwest sees a fair share of precipitation, but very rarely does it come with the promise of such an incredible night.
It’s felt like a forever ago that I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose came out. What was one of the most promising and refreshing debuts in recent years spurred fandom in many, but as time progressed, it became apparent that the popularity needed to cross the Atlantic was far from reached. Such is the problem with talented British bands, just as it is with Canadian bands; crossing borders and breaking into new nations can be a hefty endeavor. One does not simply wake up one morning with the sole determination of crossing an ocean with their music.
It’s been 5 years since their debut EP; 3 years since their debut album. What seemed like an incredibly difficult and improbable task in years past has now become a widely acknowledged success. Now, not only has Bombay Bicycle Club played shows around North America, but they returned for a second tour. It’s a perplexing concept that the band on the brink of a break through all of a sudden burst forth into our continent so instantaneously when it has felt like an eternity.
By the times the door opened – promptly at 7 o’clock – the lineup had been dampened by the rain. What began as a light drizzle had quickened to a steady pour. It was with much relief the crowd entered the warm and dry venue. As everyone packed in, the steady murmur of discussion and new friendships slowly raised.
Vacationer came on stage to a noticeably pleasant crowd. They were warmly greeted and reciprocated much of the affection being thrown at them. The lead singer made polite banter and the crowd fed off of the group. Their sound was ethereal and calm but still maintained an upbeat attitude. Having no experience with their studio work, I can only speak based off their performance, but they were refreshing and lush. Excellent use of effects was mixed with competent musicianship made for an endearing, albeit somewhat simplistic sound. The unfortunate matter was that by the end of their mere 45 minutes, they seemed to get repetitive and formulaic. I would gladly go to another show featuring them, but I fear a headlining set would truly draw out its welcome and become a bit of a bore. However, with it being a short set, the energy was a welcomed warmth and the smiles exchanged between band members gave them a homely charm that I really appreciated.
The transition to Bombay Bicycle Club was perfectly timed, something I rarely can manage to say about any show. Normally the gap is painfully long as the anticipation for a band becomes overwhelmingly tiresome; that night, however, they came on stage right as anticipation had reached its brink. As they went right into the single, “Beg,” everything felt seamless. The progression from opener to headliner has never been so fitting in length and sound. This made it easily one of the best pairings of bands I have recently seen.
The most instantly noticeable feat for me was the musicianship. The quartet featured two new members (one being a female vocalist taking over in Lucy Rose’s absence), and each exhibited a mastery of their instrument. From the intricate guitar work on the outro to “Dust on the Ground” to the pleasantly deafening bass in “Evening/Morning,” everything went forth without a hitch. Jack Steadman’s singing was impeccable and seemingly impromptu moments of improvisation were welcomed additions to the already astounding songs they played. The set was orchestrated of mostly I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose and A Different Kind of Fix, but the band did manage to also include two songs from Flaws as well as two new songs from a forthcoming record. The songs from Flaws were well executed, but the sudden break as the band played “Rinse Me Down” felt odd. “Ivy and Gold,” being more upbeat, felt more appropriate, but the songs still seemed forced in as opposed to actually working where they were. However, the drum solo and energy in “Ivy and Gold” were certainly highlights.
Another comment on the set list was the send off before the encore. “Always Like This” is fantastic song in itself, and it was a crowd favorite, but the way it suddenly ends is somewhat anticlimactic. Fortunately, the final song, “What If” was much more energetic and ended the evening perfectly.
At the end of the evening, debating which songs should and shouldn’t have been in the set would break down into a pedantic and esoteric mess. The few things that could have been improved upon were overshadowed by a beautiful medley of tracks from one of the most exciting bands out there at the moment. As a new record is on the horizon, so is a new tour. This is a band that has perfected the art of a live performance and has played much larger venues than the Vogue, so now is the time to see them. Even as everyone exited the venue, the rain was still coming down, but it felt different. It was refreshing and soothing after a palpably exciting evening. After everyone drew so close, they parted into a dreary, dark evening, but their exuberance and pleasure lit the streets in a euphoric joy. The beauty of a concert is how it can change one’s perception and bring about new friends. A rainy night isn’t a stark contrast to a happy being, it’s the perfect foil.
Photos © Jamie Taylor