Bastille sat on a rooftop
Bastille: WikiMedia Commons

Bastille at Warwick Arts Centre; an apocalyptic vision falls flat

Warwick Arts Centre and Bastille are not two things you would usually put together. Arriving at Butterworth Hall – the same venue that hosted my first talk on my Offerholder Day – it was safe to say I was apprehensive. It seemed lead singer Dan Smith shared my nerves: ‘it’s always weird to play new songs out loud’, he said shyly to the audience, the first time the band had played here in Coventry since 2013.

It’s clear that Bastille are changing things up with this new tour. Doom Days was released in June 2019 to political, social and environmental strife and a restless British youth – the album reflects this, evoking the feeling of running away from the ‘horror show’, as Dan croons on the title song, that is post-Brexit Britain. The band incorporated this feeling into their set; the backdrop draped with psychedelic yellow-and-black posters and vintage TV sets stuck on static, Dan lying comatose on a revolving and dilapidated old sofa. It’s safe to say their set was ready for the ‘apocalyptic party’ they had promised.

‘It’s clear that Bastille are changing things up with this new tour’

After a disappointing attempt of a DJ set – essentially an imitation of a primary school disco with multi-coloured lights and naughties anthems on repeat – the audience, mostly comprised of over 25s and several children, were keen for some real music to start. ‘Quarter Past Midnight’ blared as Dan ran and danced across the stage, offering a lively energy in an ill-fated attempt to ignite the luke-warm crowd. If nothing else, the band must be commended for their effort; Dan’s unexpected trip into the audience during a heartfelt performance of ‘4AM’ was, unfortunately for the student section of the crowd, as wild as it got.

That isn’t to undermine the quality of the band’s music, however. Dan’s vocals were stellar throughout – new Doom Days tracks such as ‘Bad Decisions’ and ‘A Million Pieces’ showcased just how well his voice has endured almost a decade in the limelight. The rest of the band- formed of keyboardist Kyle Simmons, bassist and guitarist Will Farquarson and drummer Chris Wood – were also top-notch; however, they produced an energy that the all-seated audience were ill-equipped to match. The large venue, in combination with the small stage, were poorly suited to Bastille’s spirited set. A lot felt lost on the older audience, too – Dan’s ‘Just Vote’ t-shirt, something that would typically receive hysterical screams from a more intimate gig crowd, was received with relative indifference by the Art Centre’s audience.

‘they produced an energy that the all-seated audience were ill-equipped to match’

Their attempt at an eccentric concept also fell flat. Around an hour in, Bastille said their goodbyes to the puzzled crowd, with many, including me, thinking they’d paid £39 to not even hear a rendition of ‘Pompeii’. However, moments later Bastille’s ‘alter-ego’ emerged, only adding to the confusion. Their alter ego – virtually just Dan changing into in a flannel shirt and a backwards cap – treated the audience to some of their more recent hits like ‘Good Grief’ and ‘Happier’. They left out some of their early popular tunes such as ‘Flaws’ and ‘Laura Palmer’ – two of my personal favourites – and the whole thing just felt strange and poorly executed. Their performance of ‘Pompeii’ marked a fitting end to the show, demonstrating just how far the band has come – and perhaps aged – since the song that made them household names.

Bastille are still a great band, creating equally good music that deserves to be listened to. However, the understated approach taken in their new tour- Warwick Arts Centre is one of nine ‘intimate’ venues that the band are performing in across the UK- does not make for an enthralling concert experience. Going back to the smaller arena’s and performing for more typical gig-goers- the kind of people Doom Days appears to be written for- would produce a far better show. However, just as their new album’s often pessimistic outlook may be a sign of times, Bastille’s apocalyptic vision could be an indication of their own slow artistic demise. ‘This will be our last tour for a while’, Dan announced near the end of the show; let’s hope Doom Days doesn’t prophesise the band’s own ambiguous future.




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