Blow-Up Elephants and Sitars: The Bombay Royale @ Hi-Fi
The Skipper. The Mysterious Lady. The Tiger. Chip Chase, Tennis Ace. The Leaping Shaman. The Boatswain. The Kung-Fu Dentist. The Jewel Thief. The Railways Mogul. Dr. Electrico. The Bandit Priest.
These are, in fact, not exotic sex positions, but the stage names of the members of Melbourne outfit The Bombay Royale, who launched their album You Me Bullets Love on Saturday night in front of a packed-out crowd. The dark cave of Melbourne’s Hi-Fi was the backdrop for the night’s theatrics, involving saris, sitars, Zorro-style eyemasks, a life-size inflatable baby elephant (trunk erect, thankyouverymuch) and some disturbingly tight white shorts.
”Maybe it sounds easy to write The Bombay Royale off as a novelty act, but they’re all skilled musicians and make up a tight ensemble.”
As it turns out, The Bombay Royale’s sound isn’t easy to describe. “Go on,” we hear you thinking, “you call yourself a fucking music magazine”. Well –
it’s sort of Bollywood surferbilly psychedelic disco porn funk, and it’s campier than RuPaul. The band performed songs from their debut album, including “Monkey Fight Snake” and “Sote Sote Adhi Raat”, against a backdrop of vintage Bollywood film clips, as if providing the soundtrack to scenes of old-school sex, suspense and intrigue.
Ably backed by a mean brass section, guitars, sitar, tabla and keys, The Mysterious Lady (who also goes by the name Parvyn Kaur Singh) and The Tiger (Shourov Bhattacharya) sing in a mix of Bengali, Hindi and English. The Skipper (alias Andy Williamson) keeps things moving like a cruise director on LSD.
Maybe it sounds easy to write The Bombay Royale off as a novelty act, but they’re all skilled musicians and make up a tight ensemble. Singh’s vocal arpeggios in ‘Phone Baje Na’, echoed by Bhattacharya, are incredible. The Jewel Thief (Josh Bennett) slips effortlessly between instruments, trading sitar for tabla, and tabla for guitar. Finishing with the album’s title track a swansong from the blow-up elephant, which squeezed in through what appeared to be a fire exit, the band returned to the stage for a brief encore.
More than anything, The Bombay Royale look as if they’re having a pretty damn good time on stage. Although if you’re wielding a seedy ’70s sailor getup, aviator sunnies and a saxophone, you’ve got no excuse not to, really. Namaste.