13th April | Colston Hall
Photos: Hannah Rooke
Violins start playing the familiar opening notes of ‘Pompeii’ as the choir enter the stage, dressed in black. There’s a brief pause and then the violin starts again. The music intensifies, bringing a cheer from the audience. Bright lights beam onto the stage; the violin continues and a member of the choir starts singing.
Initially, he is indistinguishable from his stage mates, but after a few notes of his familiar voice and we joyfully realise it is Dan Smith, lead singer of Bastille. His positioning with the choir makes it immediately clear that the evening is a re-conceptualised team effort. The audience and Dan thunder through the chorus of ‘Pompeii’ together. The song sounds amazing, so good that it feels mildly disappointing that we won’t get to hear it close the set.
Moving into ‘Snakes,’ the stage lights start flashing and Dan moves to the front of the stage, bouncing and dancing with a little foot shuffle not at all dissimilar from that of Elvis Presley. The set design features two mannequins balancing over the stage. On first impression, the flashing lights make them look like they’re dancing too. Sonically and aesthetically the show is very, very slick.
Dan takes a second to say hello, introducing everyone on stage and speaking to the audience: “Thanks for coming to our weird little tour, it’s a pleasure to be back here, Bristol.” Then the sound shifts from the gospel influence we’ve heard so far to a rockier, heavy-sounding, ‘The Anchor.’ It gets more varied from here, with a rendition of their well-received cover of TLC’s ‘No Scrubs.’
Dan pauses, takes a selfie in the audience, then slips into the majestic-sounding ‘Flaws,’ which is then followed by ‘Of the Night.’ The room turns into a pounding operatic rave for a few minutes. Dan confesses that there will not be any new material this evening, which is understandable; it wouldn’t sit well with the rest of the well-known set list.
He does say that they have new music coming very soon, gaining a huge audience cheer. Dan then starts telling us about a song they “made with a guy we met at a festival.” That ‘guy,’ of course, was Craig David. They jump into their collaboration, ‘I Know You,’ the song with the least amount of manipulation from its original form this evening.
There is a premature close with ‘Laura Palmer’ and ‘Good Grief.’ An encore is obviously on its way, beginning a few moments later with ‘Bad Blood,’ which pulses throughout the auditorium. They conclude with ‘World Gone Mad’ and an exquisite ‘Weight of Living.’ This ‘experimental tour’ has certainly paid off. Considering the audience’s love for and familiarity with their first two albums in their original form, they have delivered a sound that feels fresh and new.