Dan Smith is kicking back on the sofa. His hood is over his head; his knees pressed tight to his chest – it’s the sort of things we’ve all done on a Sunday afternoon. Except, there’s something a bit different about the situation Dan finds himself in – just the small matter of singing an unreleased song to a packed-out Brixton Academy as he leads Bastille into 2019.
It’s been a jaw-dropping road. When Bastille burst into the world with their debut album ‘Bad Blood’, it came with a singalong necessity tied to every song. Born for huge festival-filling moments, it welcomed a fresh new contender to the stage and rightly catapulted them to the big leagues. You’d have thought since then that they’d have stuck to their winning formula, nicely building on the cinematic flairs they’d laid the groundwork for across their first collection.
Thing is, Bastille aren’t like any other band – and ever since it’s seemed like they’ve been focused on pushing against the walls and norms of what could’ve been expected of them. What other band would have glued themselves to the road, touring across the globe in the wake of second album ‘Wild World’ while releasing a string of boundary-shaking mixtapes full with collaborations, twisting covers and new music alike? It’s what makes them unique, and it’s what takes centre stage as they headline the intimate (for their usual playgrounds) Brixton Academy.
As projectors flicker across the stage, that idea of playing around with what’s expected of them is thriving and in full force. For a band who’ve seemingly not stopped touring over the past couple of years, everything feels undeniably fresh with the sort of show that captures a band well and truly comfortable and pulsing with their place in the world. As they take to the stage opening with the eerie swoons of Cat Stevens’ ‘Wild World’, the night feels like the perfect summary of late-night life. Subtly chronicling those feelings of staring at digital alarm clocks in the dead of night, it’s a greatest hits set that manages to weave their undeniable vision with crowd-pleasing power.
Ambitious from start to finish, the reaction to ‘Quarter Past Midnight’ sets the pace for a night that bounces between mixtapes and records yet always feels whole. Electric party favourites like their Craig David hit ‘I Know You’, ‘Send Them Off’ and the Seed-featuring ‘Grip’ practically rips the walls off Brixton’s fine walls, while the singalong masses come alive to a communal ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’. Flickering with messages and striking visuals, that blend of classic cinema morphed with modern realities ring through – with a band who’ve in their own way have captured the fast-moving times better than anyone. When the likes of ‘Warmth’ and ‘Blame’ feel larger than ever before, you know that this is a band gearing up for a mammoth twelve months, with a confidence on stage that sees Dan jumping from start to finish and captivating in his sheer presence.
The surprises and excitement keep coming, producing the sort of show that most acts topping Radio 1 Playlists would be afraid to fully commit to. Bastille thrive on flipping the notion of what a chart-band can be, introducing the mainstream to their world rather than adjusting their world to fit the mainstream. After a storming support set, Lewis Capaldi joins them on stage for a hands-in-the-air moment with ‘Bad Blood’, with ‘World Gone Mad’ producing a sea of lights gathered in awe at a moment that proves why even when they’re slipping songs into film soundtracks – Bastille excel.
Genuinely blown away by the reaction, Dan absorbs the bright lights and projections flicking across their faces as they run through an unrivalled run-in, with ‘Good Grief’ and ‘Pompeii’ (which remains a universal heavy-hitter) tying nicely with the clubland eruption that comes from ‘Of The Night’. Returning for a palpable ‘Happier’ and one final dance with ‘Flaws’, it’s a surround sound media cocktail that by blending anthem and stunning imagery sets them apart from any other band doing it right now.
That long-awaited third album ‘Doom Days’ is teased, scribbled across the back of the sofa in thick white paint – and rather than reminding a sold-out Brixton of what they’re still waiting to see; it serves as a testament to just how prolific a band Bastille are. Continuing to produce exciting and unpredictable new music, tonight at Brixton Academy feels fresh, it feels different, and if late-night life is this stunning with Bastille, then there’s going to be a whole nation sorting out their body clocks to join in.
The message ‘Still Avoiding Tomorrow’ is a constant reminder through the night. It sounds like Bastille are already there.
Words: Jamie Muir