Review: Bombay Bicycle Club and KAWALA at O2 Guildhall Southampton, 17/02/2024


Bombay Bicycle Club's energetic concert, featuring fan-favorites KAWALA, showcased a mix of old and new hits. A memorable, diverse experience uniting longtime and new fans.

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Usually, the music is the focus of the attention during concerts. This time, it was fans in the limelight. The venue was packed with fans, to see a show opened by lifelong Bombay fans, while Bombay frontman Jack Steadman dedicated the show to fans celebrating birthdays. So, for us fans, it was Our Big Day.

There was no better choice than KAWALA to open the show. Having self-proclaimed Bombay Bicycle Club fans up there gave even more weight to the headliners. KAWALA did say they were somewhat starstruck. They showcased a mix of old and new, with the indie-folk ‘Runaway’ alongside their more poppy new single, ‘American Adrenaline’. Their energetic stage presence contrasted with their soft sounding music, creating the perfect support act. Not too dissimilar to Bombay’s own music, they really excelled and left us wanting more.

Their half-hour set zipped by, but not to worry, because they were back for Bombay’s ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’. KAWALA provided backing vocals for the album version, and the duo of Jim Higson and Daniel McCarthy were just as good here. I think KAWALA’s signature sound owes a lot to their vocals, especially Higson. They’ll have caught the eye of many Bombay Bicycle Club fans, and why not? I’m convinced there’s no one other sound quite like theirs right now. This kicks off a new era for KAWALA as they embark on a new tour with a new sound. Considering the headliners have been making music for a decade longer than them, KAWALA did not for a moment look out of place.

The energy continued once the headliners took to the stage. Steadman ran out with confetti cannons, and the party got going. From start to finish, Bombay Bicycle Club played through tune after tune from their extensive discography. They began with the more simplistic ‘Just A Little More Time’ but ramped it up from there. ‘Tekken 2’, from their new album ‘My Big Day’, was certainly a highlight, with singer Olive Jones filling in brilliantly for Chaka Khan who appears on the album version. This was joined by fan favourites like ‘Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You)’ and ‘Shuffle’. These veterans of the indie music landscape must have played these a million times by now, making everything look and feel so polished and easy.

What they did was far from easy, however. The transition from ‘Meditate’ to the instrumental ‘Rural Radio Predicts The Rapture’ was an example of this. Steadman gave up his guitar for the drum, and the show was transformed with bass, brass, and electronica. This was an unexpected highlight of the evening, particularly the brass band. There are few words to describe it – you just have to see it live.

The show ended with an encore of two very different songs. The guys wandered back out to play ‘Turn The World On’, hoping, Steadman said, to let us go with an optimistic outlook on the world. Finally, no prizes for guessing what they finished with. The entire venue serenaded to the tune of ‘Always Like This’. Videos of this have adorned social media since the tour started, and so it was amazing to experience this live.

I’ve mentioned fans a few times. Bombay Bicycle Club released their first music in 2008. That night, there were newcomers like me, who jumped on with My Big Day, while there were older fans who had been there from the very beginning. Finishing with music from their debut album was a reminder of this. It was a lovely coming together of young and older, and there really was something for everyone, whether you were a fan of KAWALA, Bombay Bicycle Club, or had (somehow) not heard of either. In the words of Bombay themselves, to finish as they started the show, they left us wishing for Just A Little More Time.

Bombay Bicycle Club’s tour concludes with an outdoor summer show at Alexandra Palace on July 12. Tickets can be purchased here.

KAWALA are performing at HERE at Outernet in London on May 22. Tickets can be purchased here.


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