By Kimberly Ilkowski
Philly’s Union Transfer is a gift from the indie rock gods. With an incredible fall lineup of up-and-coming electro-pop acts and big name alternative kings, it was about time I pilgrimaged to the holy land for a spectacular show. A walk through the warm, late October night and a few subway stops later, my friends and I reached the dark, beaconing music venue to catch English rockers Bombay Bicycle Club.
The night’s opening acts were surprisingly enjoyable and satiated our musical hunger.
Luxley instantly halted the audience’s chatter — not with its music but with lead vocalist Ryan Gray’s spastic shimmying across the stage. The more the crowd cheered, the more Gray jumped around.
Although an incredibly fun performance to watch, it ultimately felt like the audience was more enthralled by Gray’s unapologetic dance moves than the songs.
For the final song, Gray went even further by diving right into the crowd and snaking through — microphone in-hand and aggravated crew members in the distance. The audience formed a circle around him as he spun around on the floor and sang his heart out.
Following the sweat-inducing spectacle of Luxley, Milo Greene took the stage and set the tone for the rest of the night — mellow, airy and effortlessly cool.
At the peak of its set, four of the five members stood across the front of the stage and sang with such passion it commanded the entire venues attention.
Not only do the four share vocal duties, but they also swap out instruments. For one song, Marlana Sheetz would be seen behind a keyboard, then the next grooving away on the bass. Robbie Arnett captivated on electric and acoustic guitar while seductively moving his hips in time with the sultry music.
When the band announced the last song it would play, an audible sigh was heard, proving it had accomplished a great feat — entertaining the crowd enough that they forgot all about the headliner.
But who could actually forget the headliner? The crowd’s anticipation was practically bubbling over when the lights finally dimmed, signifying the show was about to begin. With a soft melody playing, five giant, circular projection screens played a graphic of a man walking around the Earth accompanied by the sun and moon rising and setting, as seen on the album artwork for its most recent album, “So Long, See You Tomorrow.”
As the track picked up pace, the band emerged from the back and played a string of songs off “So Long” and the 2011 release “A Different Kind of Fix.”
The band exuded an undeniable energy that matched the crowd’s excitement to be dancing and singing along to one of its favorite bands. Everyone around us was in high spirits, whether it was the girls bobbing their heads or the boys crooning along.
Hearing Bombay’s music live gave it an entirely new life and heightened its meaning. Tracks like “Luna,” “Shuffle” and “It’s Alright Now” were all beautifully done and carried a sense of whimsy and wonder.
Other songs like “Your Eyes” and “How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep” gripped my heart with their light-hearted nature and positive beats. I couldn’t help but close my eyes and sway — the delicate chords and pure vocals sounded like falling in love.
For the quieter, ballad-esque “Eyes Off You,” vocalist Jack Steadman sat front and center, playing the keyboard and practically whispering the heartfelt lyrics. The only thing that lessened the moments profundity were the voices of the people at the back bar ringing in our ears just as loudly as Steadman.
Despite this minor hiccup, the rest of the band’s set absolutely dazzled. The evening wrapped up with a few older songs like “Always Like This” off its 2009 album “I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose” and a triumphant return to the stage after the crowd pleaded for an encore. Steadman’s distinct voice paired with Liz Lawrence’s velvety smooth vocals created a back and forth dialogue that made every song feel like a story.
The band played every song I could have possibly hoped to hear, yet I still left the venue craving more. With the amount of love Philly showed them, hopefully Bombay Bicycle Club will come back to us soon.