What a difference nine months makes! Since this reviewer’s mixed opinion of Bad Blood last September, Bastille have soared. The band earned a UK #2 hit with the mashup of iconic 1990s dance-pop hits, Of The Night. Its profile in the US has also exploded, as breakthrough single Pompeii made the US Top Five.
With Pompeii being the 15th most successful single on Australia’s ARIA ‘End of Year’ Chart for 2013, it’s no wonder that the show last night at the 5500-capacity Hordern Pavillion was a sell-out. The crowd may have been dominated by kids barely out of high school, but there were older fans like parents and those curious to see a band on the rise.
Alison Wonderland’s sets in between acts featured selections as diverse as Tame Impala, Nicki Minaj, Fatboy Slim and Lorde. After the support act however, there were too anti-climatic, trap/house/electro instrumentals that were too ‘hipster’ for the crowd. This generated the odd waving of the arm in solidarity but mostly impatient frowns and shuffling of feet. This reviewer almost felt compelled to bust out either Rihanna’s Pour It Up or Beyonce’s Drunk In Love just to make the wait more tolerable.
Support act Foxes had a simple set up: illuminated letters spelling her name, a keyboard player, a drummer and backing tracks. She channeled a mix of Kate Bush, Sporty Spice and Shakira, with her rapid spins on lively opener Talking To Ghosts, yearning vocals, the occasional hip-swaying and her outfit consisting of a flowing white cape and a midriff-baring top. Her performance had two crowd-pleasing sing-alongs: an ethereal cover of Pharrell Williams’ Happy and of course Clarity, her euphoric Grammy-winning collaboration with Zedd.
At about 9:20pm, Bastille took to the stage with brooding red lights with a rendition of Bad Blood that is moodier and grittier than the sterile studio version.
Frontman Dan Smith’s energy was infectious through the night, despite the fact he bounced around in his hoodie more like a excited child who just got free Eminem concert tickets than the boxers or rappers he attempted to emulate.
Even though Smith is not a naturally charismatic frontman, he interacted well with the crowd. He stood on the monitors, waved at fans, shouted out to the back and even asked the crowd to take a step back to stop the front row from being crushed (even admitting that he sounded ‘like a school teacher’). On main set closer Flaws, Smith ventured into the crowd before returning to the stage.
There were joyful moments that energised the crowd and made it forget the winter weather: Weight of Living Part II (where exhilarating green laser beams flashed in sync with the synth bass), Pompeii b-side Poet and the tropical These Streets. The standing area turned into a bopping heap of arms, out of tune singing, grins and laughter.
The poignant parts were well-received too, like the faithful recreation of spectacular acapella ending of Laughter Lines. Oblivion was turgid on the album, but had a greater emotional impact live in its lower key as Smith’s falsetto and piano-playing were showcased. Inevitably, the hall lit up with camera phones waving side to side.
Even the mediocre songs were improved upon. Icarus and Things We Lost In The Fire galloped with the urgency that was missing on the album.
After the first encore (the bar-worthy Daniel in the Den), Smith asked the crowd to get down (not in a sexy way) for Of The Night. The crowd laughed, but ultimately obliged by squatting towards the floor before unleashing jump-a-thons of ecstasy during the choruses. Pompeii simply confirmed Bastille’s hold over the crowd, which repeated the memorable ‘eh oh eh oh’ hook several times after the band stopped playing.
Despite an uneven album to support and performing at the tinier Metro Theatre just last year, Bastille triumphed at the Hordern. If its sophomore effort and Dan Smith’s showmanship take off, it should perform at even bigger venues in the future.
Weight of Living, Pt. II
Things We Lost in the Fire
Daniel in the Den
Of the Night