The General Manager at the legendary Jericho Tavern has, he tells us, “been getting about 20 calls a day about tonight.” This bodes well for a show that sold out within days of announcement and sees Bombay Bicycle Club, the NME-crowned Best New Band of 2010, take to an unusually small stage for the privilege of 200 or so of Oxford’s quickest-off-the-mark indie lovers. The boss’ solution to the avalanche of demand for the show... “We’ve taken the phone off the hook.”
‘Legendary’ is only a minor over-claim for this venue which enjoys a unique place at the heart of Oxford’s musical history: Radiohead played their first gig here and it was a launch pad for bands including Ride and Supergrass. Bombay Bicycle Club, however, clearly need no introduction in Oxford but with them they bring two exciting newcomers.
First up, Manchester band Dutch Uncles open proceedings with a set brimming with energy, initiating a buzz that’ll last all night. Dressed head to toe in black, lead singer Duncan flips from brooding to firecracker animation, like a man who can’t resist dipping his fingers in the plug socket. His jerky moves and twists give the band showmanship but not at the expense of the carefully constructed songs. Forthcoming single ‘The Ink’ goes down a storm and by the time they close with ‘Doppelganger’ they’ve earned their place as a lot of people’s new favourite band.
Second on the bill is Lucy Rose, accompanied by her three-piece backing band. Like Dutch Uncles, she is (as yet) unsigned, but just a couple of songs into her performance it’d take someone with seriously questionable judgment to bet against that changing soon. Her voice, complemented by that of her bass player, is beautiful in a quirky way and we are treated to an impromptu rendition of ‘How Much Is That Doggy In The Window’ prompted by a heckle from a friend in the crowd. Several songs and several guitar changes later Lucy finishes her set to applause and whoops.
From the moment they report to the stage Bombay Bicycle Club launch headlong into a no-nonsense set, seizing this downsizing on their usual live habitat as an opportunity to rediscover the energy of their early performances. They’re relentless, seldom pausing between songs (other than for lead singer Jack to occasionally drink what looks suspiciously like a cup of tea). A song is dedicated to Lucy Rose as the crowd begins to clap and pogo. After that follows a perfect rendering of ‘Evening/Morning’, with some audience contributions on the mic. Jack delivers a captivating encore alone onstage and then it’s all over, like all the best shows, way too soon.
It’s not only Radiohead and Supergrass who offer their approval looking on from the huge painting on the wall of the venue; the bands also get the nod from new rock royalty as Jack from Foals is spotted taking notes. Again, ‘legendary’ might be a bridge too far but Oxford and the Jericho Tavern can chalk tonight up amongst the best of its proud history.