Bombay Bicycle Club’s one-night Manila concert

Paul John Caña

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Heavy rain didn’t stop the British rock group from playing to their fans

“I’m in my underwear in my studio,” said Jack Steadman. I had just asked him where he was and what he could see outside his window. “It’s 10am here in London. There’s actually no window, but I’m looking at a painting by Max Ernst.”

BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB. The group was here to perform for their Manila fans in a one-night concert. Photo by PJ Caña

Who knows if he was kidding about the underwear thing, but the frontman of British indie rock group Bombay Bicycle Club sounded pleasant and lively on the phone. 

“We started writing music when we were 13 and 14,” he said about the band, which includes childhood mates Jamie MacColl (guitars), Suren De Saram (drums), and Ed Nash (bass). “I don’t think I wanted to be anything else [but a musician] because there was nothing else I was good at.” 

Bombay Bicycle Club (or BBC) first gained widespread notice after they won Virgin Mobile’s Road To V band competition in 2006. The main prize was opening the V Festival that year. They released their debut album I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose in 2009 and followed that up with three more LPs since. The latest, So Long, See You Tomorrow, sees them turning east for inspiration.

“There wasn’t a specific band or artist we listened to while making this record,” Jack says. “We try not to think about it too much. We just write. But we did use some Bollywood samples in some of the songs which you can definitely hear.”

The frontman added that the first time he was struck with the realization of their relative success in the business, they were in the skies. “This was around the time of our second album. We were on a flight to Japan, on British Airways, and we were getting suitably drunk. I saw on the TV that they had our album there. And I imagined everyone just listening to it and going, wow, that’s pretty cool.”

The group was in Manila at the World Trade Center Wednesday night, July 23, for their first ever show in the Philippines. Early evening showers meant horrific traffic, but diehard fans trooped to the venue and patiently sat through the opening act, She’s Only Sixteen. At exactly 9:30pm, the band walked onstage bathed in candy-colored lights in front of giant screens.

They began with “Overdone,” which also opens their current album, and followed up with “It’s Alright Now.” Steadman was wearing a long-sleeved, basic button-down, skinny jeans that ended just above the knee, and loafers. The 24-year-old singer/songwriter/guitarist looked like he had just finished acing a chemistry exam before deciding to strap on a guitar and perform in front of an enthusiastic crowd.

The band members were no-nonsense; they started playing and barely conversed with the audience, save for the occasional “Salamat” (thank you) thrown in. Their brand of indie rock may not immediately resonate with large masses of music lovers, but it’s snappy and lethargic, and happy and somber at the same time. 

Their songs work whether you’re out partying with your friends or deciding to stay in and just order pizza. They did fan favorites like “Luna” and “Always Like This” as well as slightly less popular tracks like “Evening/Morning” and “Lamplight.” 


The band finished the regular set with “So Long, See You Tomorrow.” While there were some in the crowd who started making their way to the exit, the most hardcore fans chanted the obligatory request for an encore, which the band heeded. They came back out to do “What If” and “Carry Me.”

Photos posted on Instagram by the team behind Karpos Multimedia (which produced the concert) earlier that day showed the band happily eating Pinoy food and touring Intramuros in a kalesa.

Here’s hoping they had as much fun here as their fans, many of whom looked giddy and had smiles plastered on their faces as they filed out of the venue after the show. –

Paul John Caña is the managing editor of Lifestyle Asia magazine and is a live music geek. Email him at or follow him on Twitter @pauljohncana


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