Bastille at EartH Hackney
The party atmosphere at Dalston’s EartH, as the audience awaited the arrival on stage of British band Bastille, was hit with a sobering speech from a War Child rep, reminding all why they were there last night. The organisation has raised over £5 million with fundraising gigs such as these, she explained, but their efforts require funding more than ever right now, particularly in Afghanistan, where desperate families are driven as far as to sell their own children if they don’t receive much-needed support. Far from being a dampener on proceedings, however, it imbued all that followed with additional meaning.
Frontman Dan Smith was on typically buoyant form, just as down-to-earth and amiable as he was back in the day, seemingly unchanged by a decade of commercial success, number ones and sell-out tours. His vibe makes it easy to imagine him as a mate you see down the pub; but that’s not to say his boyish charm and youthful looks should allow listeners to underestimate his skill as an artist – his voice never misses a note nor beat and constantly astounds with its prowess, in spite of a laid-back style.
Opening the set was a synth-heavy riff on 2013’s Pompeii, with Smith just visible through the smoke-filled stage, breaking the ice with a little wave. Soon, his Aztec-style jacket came off to reveal a plain white tee and he was into his trademark prancing across the stage while earnestly executing each line of each song without holding anything back.
The South Londoner’s between-song chat kept the audience afloat, with many a “How you all doing – alright? … it’s a pleasure to be here, thank you for being here.” He effortlessly summoned them out of their bench seats to rise up and dance (“Feel free to get up at any point!”), before walking up through the crowd and making the night of a group of friends by singing and dancing with them.
Just as the band settled into a rhythm with fan favourites Flaws, Quarter past Midnight and Happier, Smith made a bombshell announcement: they would play yet-to-be-released fourth album Give Me the Future “top to bottom”. Bastille told the crowd they’d be the first to hear it, aside from their record label and their parents – oh, and to pretend to know it a bit, self-deprecatingly pointing out it shouldn’t be too difficult: “We repeat the same things a lot; that’s pop music, guys.”
It was a bold decision, with fans more often than not hungry to hear their beloved tracks, rather than new material. But it’s one the band mostly pulled off, Smith’s point about repetition helping the audience join in where they could. The solid new tracks, from Shut off the Lights to Future Holds, demonstrated a further evolution of their sound, blending indie-rock, 80s-infused retro-futuristic beats and pure unadulterated pop, while ruminating on millennial anxieties about the impact of technology in a sci-fi realm.
However, there was also a sense of relief as the new album closed out and they returned to that first track that made their name, the “weird cover” they had on a mixtape, Of the Night, which required, as Smith put it, some corny audience participation. It was swiftly followed by Good Grief, with the line, “Watching through my fingers” reverberating across the crowd, before the night ended on a more familiar version of opener Pompeii, which had every concertgoer belting out each word in unison. The singer seemingly read the minds of all present with some of his closing words: “How nice is it to be in a room with live music again?” The last few years have been undeniably tough; with an electric atmosphere, heartfelt sentiment and a sense of joyful abandon, watching Bastille live is a welcome tonic.
Photo: Luke Dyson
For further information and future events visit Bastille’s website here.
For further information about War Child visit their website here.
Watch the video for the single Shut Off the Lights here: