Bastille ReOrchestrated at Hampton Court Palace
Bastille ReOrchestrated was born in 2017, at a London Union Chapel charity gig that saw the Celtic thrum of Pompeii replaced with a string quartet and a handful of gospel singers. The concept was soon expanded, becoming a complete tour in 2018, with reprises from their last three albums rearranged alongside an impressive 20-piece orchestra and choir. With a documentary to match, the venture has been received with admiration, the band praised for demolishing the limitations of genre labelling and widening the space for cross-overs in the musical landscape.
Hampton Court Palace is a quintessential venue for classical music. Regal and proud, it is also a poignant setting for an evening that is, for most, the first live performance since restrictions plagued everyone’s plans. In contrast to such a venue, frontman Dan Smith bounds on stage teeming with nerves, his awkward schoolboy demeanour a peculiar match for the orchestra and choir behind him, until he begins to sing. Despite admitting to his restless anticipation, Smith’s vocals power through a lengthy set list with extreme stamina, as he fully surrenders to enthusiasm and spirit.
The orchestration works seamlessly, with inviting arrangements and subtlety placed interludes, though it is utilised most effectively alongside vocals and other instrumentation. At times, it even feels like the tracks were written specifically for an orchestra, a testament to the ingenious blending of starkly different professions. The band remain themselves in essence, despite dressing their gutsy anthems in textured acoustic, the most compelling being the heartstring-tugging hooks of Anchor and Oblivion. The characteristic weighted bass lines of Things we Lost in the Fire and Doom Days meet their power match with the outstanding gospel choir, who touch every corner with enormous vocal breadth and an angelic presence.
Unexpectedly, Rick Astley makes an appearance with a friendly slap of Never Gonna Give You Up, which is certainly enjoyable. A teaser track from their upcoming science fiction-themed album suggests they might be returning to techno club beat inspirations, similar to their cover from a past mixtape, Of the Night, which transforms Hampton Court into a disco for a brief, exciting moment. Happier, a widely successful hit, follows immediately but feels somewhat awkward in this tracklist, perhaps because Smith is over-exerted or because musically the succession doesn’t flow. Despite sufficient heel stomping for Pompeii performed full blast, they opt for the soft simplicity of the gospel version, though this in no way downsizes, with the addition of the beautiful projection of vocals from both choir and Smith.
The presence of live music is an experience everyone has been thirsty for. The long-awaited unity of art and its audience brews an energy that has the crowd eager to stand from the first track. Re-orchestrated, Bastille passionately welcome classical music into their world of pop and the result is an homage to songs that can stand being thrown around and injected with new intention. This is a triumphant and jubilant return to live performance, welcomed by music lovers with gratitude.
Photos: Guifré de Peray
For further information and future events visit Bastille’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Distorted Light Beam here: