Bay area fans following indie synth-pop sensation, Bastille who hail from South London were surprised that tickets to their show at the Rickshaw Stop presented by Popscene were sold out as quickly as they did. Those that did get tickets, however, were behind the band all the way, even when singer, Dan Smith was not able to reach those vocal crescendoes he’s become known for.
Bastille’s outing on Mon, July 22 was one of their first as a band performing in America but across the pond, their album, Bad Blood debuted on top of the album charts in March.
Their hit single, Pompeii has been playing on radio stations here and many have started paying attention to the band with the French moniker. Prior to that, several singles were released in the UK, each charting slightly higher than the next, creating just the right groundswell to take the band to the top of the pile, and poised for a US breakthrough.
In truth, Bastille began largely in singer-songwriter, Dan Smith’s (his birthday falls on Bastille Day, the French holiday that celebrates the start of the French revolution) bedroom before he was discovered by Elton John’s management company who then set him down to write more songs.
Smith had other ideas and soon hooked up with drummer, Chris Wood. Before long, keyboardist, Kyle Simmons and bassist, Will Farquarson joined them and the foursome set out doing gigs together. Though Smith, a self-confessed control freak writes all the lyrics and conceives album covers, posters and their music videos which have been very popular on You Tube; after two years of playing together make no mistake that this is a group effort.
After a tight opening by Little Daylight, whose choir-girl vocals and synth-pop echoes of The Cocteau Twins and more recent Scottish upstart, Chvrches, the mood at the Rickshaw Stop was electric with the floor ready for their main act.
The quartet took the stage to the Twin Peaks theme, sampled in Falling which is found on their excellent mixtape, Other People’s Heartaches. It was befitting of a band who has a hit titled, Laura Palmer and more than a passing fancy to David Lynch stylings.
Amidst the rich atmospheric soundscape of Falling, Smith’s vocals were underwhelming though the crowd did not seem to care. “This is our first gig properly in America so thank you,” piped Smith as he moved on to the second song.
He again struggled with the vocals and admitted that he was losing his voice after playing at a festival in Spain. He invited, “I guess it’s a long shot but if anyone knows the words join in. And if I sound awful, I’ll pay for your ticket.”
Of course the crowd was more than happy to oblige on several of the songs while fellow band mates also stepped up to the plate in the soaring vocal harmonies. A particular highlight was Of The Night, a likeable mash-up of Snap’s Rhythm Is A Dancer and Corona’s Rhythm Of The Night where it felt like Smith’s frantic beating of the single drum was cartharsis for misgivings elsewhere. After the closing song, Pompeii, Bastille understandably did not surface for an encore. The good-humored crowd seemed satisfied and more than happy to stay on the dance floor for DJ Aaron Axelsen’s excellent set.
Considering how it is Smith’s soothing vocals that truly pull together the grand sounds and cinematic arrangements on their songs, one might have thought it very disappointing for the fans. However, Mark Tally, a new fan who admitted he knew their songs but not all the lyrics said, “No, the fact that he was losing his voice didn’t stop me enjoying the performance. If anything, I was more concerned for him. It’s great that he continued to play.”
Heather Hudgeon added, “I’ve been a big fan and watching Bastille for more than a year now. Even with a sore throat, they still sounded more amazing that most other bands I have seen live. And it was so sweet of him to apologise and offer to pay for our tickets. I loved it.” She has already bought tickets to Bastilles’ next show at the Great American Hall in Sept 19.
For tickets to the show, please click here.
Their album, Bad Blood will be released in the US on Sept 3 . You can pre-order it here.
Special thanks to Chris Smith.