Review + Photography by Carolyn Brown

Bastille have plucked at the heart strings of fans since 2010. An amalgamation of their captivating sound, moving lyrics and charismatic presence make them easy to love. Their mix of experimental mash-ups, rock textures and dance rhythms mixed with Dan’s blissfully choral voice make them one of the most dynamic Indi-pop bands around. Bastille have put on the most incredible performances in the past, but on Saturday night Bastille stepped it up a level as they performed the penultimate date of the UK leg of their ‘Still Avoiding Tomorrow Tour’ at the iconic O2 Academy in Brixton.

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The packed crowd eagerly await Bastille’s arrival to the stage. A sheer red screen which reads ‘Still avoiding tomorrow?’ covers the stage. Lights go down and a single spotlight highlights front man, Dan Smith, as he plays a cover of Cat Steven’s ‘Wild World’ on the keyboard; a gentle but suspense-building introduction. He moves into ‘Quarter Past Midnight’ as the rest of the band enter the stage and more spot lights appear highlighting them. Larger than life silhouettes dance around the screen as the band move in front of the lights behind them. The musical layers build until they explode into the second chorus when the screen drops and the stage and band are fully revealed to the excitement of the crowd who scream a warm welcome. Their third song, ‘Send Them Off!’ see’s Smith bouncing up and down the stage and hopping on to various platforms that adorn it amongst a plethora of drums, keyboards and guitars.

Bastille do not shy away from collaboration with other artists and this show was a perfect demonstration of some of those partnerships. Their first special guest was Rationale who performed Top 10 hit ‘I Know You’, which was originally written and performed by with Craig David. Rationale has collaborated with Bastille on a number of tracks in the past and features in their most recent mix tape ‘Other Peoples Heartache Pt.4’. It was amazing to see them perform together as their styles connect and blend so well.

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For a fiery performance of ‘Things We Lost in the Fire’, all of the band members began by standing and facing the audience with their arms in the air almost as if in praise. Smith plays the drums and the stage lights flash to the beat creating an almost tribal or religious-like display. It was so interesting to see how the musicians move and communicate with each other on stage.

Bastille’s music is often politically fuelled and influenced by our difficult and conflicting society. Smith introduced the next song, ‘Currents’ from their second album ‘Wild World’, as a response to the feelings of confusion in our current society. He claims he wrote the song on the eve of big changes in the world; ‘it’s a massive f*** you’ to those in power who divide us (of course talking about dreaded Brexit). It’s always interesting to see figures in popular culture use their platforms to encourage social change and start conversations. In the ‘oh my god my god’ part of the song, Woody, the drummer, stands up and has his arms in the air passionately. You can see in their performance that their music is meaningful and an outlet for emotion. There is real authenticity in their execution.

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Dan ‘dances’ his way through ‘Wild World’, which mainly consists of a lot of bouncing and brilliant eccentric movements which are so energised. It is amazing how you never hear him out of breath and that his voice remains flawless. They then go on to perform ‘Blame’ after introducing one of the guest guitarists who moves to the front of the stage for a kind of mini epic guitar solo for the end of the song.

The show included mostly material from their old albums. However, as well as performing their most recent release ‘Grip’ with Norwegian production duo, Seeb, we also got treated to a cheeky sneak peek of new material. A brief interlude of ‘Your Voice is a Weapon’ is played that features an awesome drum solo from Wood over a recording featuring Angel Haze before our attention is taken back to the centre of the stage. A couch and single floor lamp sit on the central platform. Smith falls into a laid back, exhausted position on the couch; his hoodie covers most his face. Anyone would think he was taking a quick nap if it weren’t for the spellbinding voice singing ‘4am’ coming from under the hoodie. As he sings he begins to curl up into a ball, a kind of shy and scared position that conflicts with the limelight type gesture of the single spotlight that shines on him. The platform spins to reveal the name of their new album ‘Doom Days’ which is sprayed on to the back of the sofa. He sings the lyrics ‘There is nowhere I would rather be. Never been more comfortable when you’re near me’, a beautiful kind of back-down-to-earth moment.

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Their next guest, gothic goddess, The Dawn of May performed a stunning rendition of ‘World Gone Mad’ with the band during which the audience wave the torches from their phones in the air to create a starry setting. Smith then reintroduces Rationale for a change of tone and kiss-ass version of ‘Fake It’.

His fourth guest, up and coming artist Lewis Capaldi, was introduced for the next song. As he came on the crowd applauded and screamed in excitement. Capaldi had won the audience over not long before Bastille’s arrival as he smashed his supporting set that included the stunning UK Top 40 hits ‘Grace’ and ‘Someone You Loved’. But not only was he singing and song writing on point, self-proclaimed ‘sad, chubby guy’ got the audience chuckling away at his blaze ad libs that were made even funnier because of his thick Scottish accent. Smith asks Capaldi how he was after his performance; ‘it was f***ing terrifying’ he lightly jokes and gives the audience a little tickle, what a loveable character. He performed ‘Bad Blood’ with Bastille which went down a treat.

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Lewis Capaldi

It’s then back on the Sofa for Smith and Farquarson (on guitar) for a ‘Two Evils’ before Smith moves over to the keyboard for ‘Daniel in the Den’ in which the rest of the band come back gradually for. The temporary living room is replaced by some sort of smashed up door which hints at a kind of post-apocalyptic setting which seems to be visually setting the scene for ‘Doom Days’ along with artsy video montages that project throughout the show. They move into another new song, ‘Million Pieces’, followed by the infamous ‘Pompeii’, ‘Good Grief’ and ‘Laura Palmer’.

For the final song Dan asks for the audiences help with his ‘terrible dancing’. I knew they would be playing ‘Of the Night’ (Corona and Snap mash-up cover) because every time I have seen them perform this he always says the same thing beforehand. It seems as though the rest of the audience also know the drill. The whole venue crouches down to the floor on the lead up to the chorus and then leap up for crazy jumping as the chorus kicks in. Fun fact – Smith claims when they were originally arranging the song (back before they even made their first album) they thought ‘Rhythm is a Dancer’ and ‘Rhythm of the Night’ were the same song, hence the mash-up. It ends with Simmons and Smith in a drum war in the middle of the stage. The energy from the final song is soothed by a mellow reprise of ‘Wild World’ and one by one the band exits the stage.

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The first encore song was ‘Happier’, the recent chart hit from the band produced by Marshmello. Smith then stops and announces that he will be running the London Marathon this year in aid of Breast Cancer Now, who have helped his mother succeed in her battle with breast cancer. You can donate to this fantastic charity here keeponrunning. The final encore song was ‘Flaws’ in which Dan moved into the crowd; it was hypnotic and euphoric ending.

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