I first heard Bastille, as you do, on FIFA 13. Normally I hum along to the tunes on my favourite football console game and promptly forget about them yet something about the driving synths and galloping drums of Weight of Living Part II made me find out more about this up-and-coming London band.
The rest, as they say, is history. I instantly became a huge fan, and their number one album Bad Blood was unapologetically played repeatedly for the first half of this year. Indeed, for a band who have only been around for a couple of years, after front-man Dan Smith decided to turn his solo act into a group, Bastille’s rise to one of the UK’s (and quickly the USA’s) most popular bands has been nothing short of meteoric.
Hence it was no surprise their second UK tour of the year was sold out in minutes, prompting me to purchase tickets for their final gig of the autumn at the rather grand Cliffs Pavilion in Southend-on-Sea. The audience was, unsurprisingly, mostly girls, as well as trendy types and lovers of brilliantly catchy synth-rock anthems.
…to demonstrate the rich fullness of their sound…
Once mightily impressive support act Clean Bandit had finished their set, the atmosphere in the room was as expectant as any gig I’ve been to. Arriving on stage to the Twin Peaks theme tune, the band began with Bad Blood, a perfect way both to demonstrate the rich fullness of their sound, despite only being a four-piece, and to get the hour-and-a-half set underway.
A criticism of Bastille has been that their music is bland, and, indeed, they are undeniably a polished outfit. Yet Smith’s voice is magnificent live, as adept at passionate howls as he is at sensitive high notes, which were particularly evident on the melancholic Overjoyed (“You lean towards despair, any given opportunity you’re there”) and on one of their oldest and most rarely played songs Daniel in the Den, which pleased the hardcore fans. Bastille have a crucial mix of upbeat, energetic songs, complete with boundless on-stage enthusiasm with a darker, meaningful message shown by erudite and provoking lyrics: it all makes for a fantastic live show.
…that took my breath away…
With Bad Blood so widely played, it was exciting to hear three new songs. The first, Campus, was a quirky, colourful song that could become an instant summer classic. Yet, given Smith opted to keep the first LP guitar-free, the other two were heavy on guitar, played by bassist Will Farquarson. Blame was a dark, brooding number which was for me the weakest of the three, but it was The Draw, which Smith revealed will be released in a month or so, that took my breath away. Starting in a similar vein to Overjoyed, the song built up into a massive crescendo of hard guitar rock. It was a major departure from Bastille’s previous music, with an incredibly powerful result. If that’s the sign of things to come ahead of the “difficult second album,” they needn’t worry.
As the gig drew to a close, the crowd’s excitement reached new heights, helped in no small part by Smith’s wander through the auditorium during the rendition of breakthrough single Flaws. A cover song Of the Night, (a mash-up of Snap!’s Rhythm is a dancer and Corona’s Rhythm of the Night had the crowd bouncing so much I thought the floor was going to cave in, before biggest-selling single Pompeii brought the night to a close with a chorus of chanting so loud, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was heard across Essex.
…their knack for the catchiest of hooks and dominant, vibrant drumbeats make them a formidable live act…
I witnessed a wonderful gig by a band who have only been around for a short time, however their knack for the catchiest of hooks and dominant, vibrant drumbeats make them a formidable live act, ensuring they will be at the forefront of British music for many years to come.