“I am the worst dancer in the world,” confesses Dan Smith, the somewhat shy frontman of Bastille, towards the end of the night. But really, it doesn’t matter. What he lacks in rhythmic capability, he more than makes up for in getting the crowd to do plenty of dancing of their own. If anything, his rather low-key presence parallels the band’s minimalistic set up; the stage is sparsely dressed (save for a large drum which causes the members to look elated when it’s their turn to hit it) and is punctuated sporadically with enigmatic shots of running wolves and speeding cars.
Walking out to the Twin Peaks theme, with its mysterious chords, and dressed entirely in black, Bastille themselves follow this look. Smith then says a quick “hello” before the band proceeds into the title track of their debut album, ‘Bad Blood’. The crowd eagerly sing along and Smith looks genuinely happy to be there. 2013 has been a great year for Bastille – their platinum-selling album went straight to number one and when I saw them (at the o2 Academy Leicester), they were halfway through their second sell out tour of the year. Their occasionally brooding brand of synthpop has proved to be very popular, which was clearly evident during an energetic rendition of recent single, ‘Things We Lost in the Fire’. Plenty of jumping and drum thumping created an exceptionally memorable performance of what is a fairly repetitive song.
The band also introduced three new songs throughout the night. The first, ‘Campus’, is a Vampire Weekend-like track that sounds refreshingly summery despite the pleas of “Heaven help me” in the chorus. The other two, ‘Blame’ and ‘The Draw’, head down a different route, with them being more guitar-oriented, but they produce a promising sound.
Between these new songs were excellent performances of album highlights, ‘Weight of Living, Pt. II’ and ‘These Streets’, as well as an enthusiastic version of single, ‘Laura Palmer’. An interesting moment arrived when the group inexplicably broke out into a cover of City High’s 2001 hit ‘What Would You Do?’. It’s an odd choice for a cover but it seemed to work.
As the set was beginning to draw to a close, the band pulled out all the stops with the hugely enjoyable ‘Icarus’ before Smith donned his grey hoodie and climbed on to the balcony during the brilliant breakthrough single, ‘Flaws’, his hood protecting his wildly coiffed hair from the wandering hands of the audience. Singing through the crowd (as far as his microphone would let him), Smith then returned to the stage for the explosive finale, his hair still very much intact, before they all left to the sound of everyone cheering riotously.
Bastille resurfaced a minute later and slowed the pace down with another album cut, ‘Get Home’. They then courted excitement with talking about a song that “appeared on a mixtape” and turned out to be current single, ‘Of the Night’, an interesting interpretation of two 90s dance classics. It’s a great song and went down a treat. The night came to a close with the track that put the group on this road, their biggest selling single to date, ‘Pompeii’. Its infectious vocal refrain makes it perfect for a closer, one that saw everyone chanting along – including support act, To Kill A King, who joined the group for one big final performance.
Bastille’s set was mainly a selection of the most memorable and upbeat songs from the album that proved that despite their music occasionally evoking the darker side of synthpop, they could still provide the bright fervour to get the crowd moving. Although they’ve been around a relatively short time (and although the album is a somewhat mixed bag), the band’s enthusiasm shows they’re in it for the long run.
Photo credit: www.teathreesugars.blogspot.com