Kickstarting their Doom Days tour in Philadelphia, Bastille guide us through a multi-sensory journey of an evening with highs, lows, and a lot of team spirit.
Bastille’s new show starts with a countdown. Projected on the screen behind the stage is the wall of a house, a window, and a clock. This backdrop returns throughout the night, grounding the audience and letting them know what stage of the night they’re living at that moment. You see, Bastille’s new tour is less of a concert and more of a journey, divided into acts, accentuated by the markers of passing time and set changes, visually narrated by colourful, frenetic projections. With their third album, Doom Days, Bastille decided to guide us through the journey of a single evening – with their Doom Days Tour, they’re bringing that evening to life in front of us, in all its glory, joy, and anxiety.
The longest and first act is called ‘Still Avoiding Tomorrow’, and it takes off with frontman Dan Smith sitting in front of an old-school television which will remain on stage and a part of the set until the end of the show. “Quarter Past Midnight” kickstarts the concert, and the stage comes to life with colourful lights, fast-paced projections, and Smith jumping around – a lot.
They lead us right into “Send Them Off”, from second album Wild Wild World, and then “Things We Lost in the Fire”, an undeniable hit from debut record Bad Blood. Three songs that, despite being from different projects, are threaded together because they describe the inevitable highs and lows of the human experience – the exhilarating and endless world of possibility of “Quarter Past Midnight” is undermined by the lack of restraint and the haunting power of “Send Them Off”, both of which are mourned in “Things We Lost in the Fire”.
One of the most visually striking moments of the night comes in “Two Evils”, where Dan Smith climbs up a ladder onstage as a spotlight singles him out and darkens everything around him and an immense blood moon is projected behind him. It’s a contemplative moment, with every word he sings carrying a necessary added weight. But the gravity of the song is expertly diffused as they follow it up with “Happier”, their Marshmello collaboration that exploded in the charts last year. It’s one of the songs the audience reacts to the most, naturally.
For “Flaws”, Dan Smith does something which most people would find insane, if not potentially dangerous. From the first second of the song he climbs down from the stage and crawls his way into the audience. Not content with just greeting the few lucky fans in the front row, Smith makes his way across the General Admission pit – yes, diagonally across the pit, in the middle of all of his fans who join in as he sings and get the chance to dance with Smith each time the chorus comes along. As if that might not be a unique feat, as soon as Smith reaches the end of the pit close to the soundboard, he finds a way to enter the seated section of the audience and sing to those around, before making his way back through the GA pit and onto the stage. It’s remarkable, and only goes to show how much Bastille fans are a crucial part of the band’s existence and life experience.
Act two, titled ‘Those Nights’, is one that’s tinged with an apocalyptic sense of self-critique, despair, and lightly coated with hope. The best moments come in “Those Nights”, where strobe lights and beautiful visuals make every word Smith sings feel important, and “Doom Days”, the strongest and title track of their third album that begs to be screamed out as lyrics are projected on all screens around the venue.
The final act is called ‘The Morning Doesn’t Reach Us’, and is as spirited, daring, and determined as teenagers when they identify the world’s problems and decide to tackle them head on. It’s the final push before the comedown, one that thrusts you into action even if the action is just finding the silver lining amongst all the chaos. The euphoric last dance before the apocalypse comes in the form of “Of The Night”, one of Bastille’s best songs to date, which is chosen to close the set before the encore. It asks you to leave it all out on the venue floor, and you have no choice but to gladly oblige.
Throughout the evening, Smith’s microphone has been faulty and unreliable, cutting in and out during songs but not deterring the band from keeping the show going. As a result, Smith has lost his voice, so when the band comes out for the encore drummer Chris Wood uses his own mic to give the audience a mission: “Poor Dan, bless him, has lost his voice. So we need you all to help us sing this last song”. The last song is the obvious and best choice, “Pompeii”, Bastille’s first hit which cemented their place in the alt-pop world. It’s cathartic and beautiful to see thousands of people sing every word of the song as Smith tries his best to fight the technical issues. As the show comes to a close, everyone in the audience feels united as they’ve successfully completed their mission and gotten through the song together, audience being as crucial as band for the execution of the night’s most anticipated piece.
On their records, Bastille have no problem pointing out all that’s wrong in the world, but they also easily find and highlight what’s beautiful, worthy of celebration, in the middle of all the mess. They work with the hand that’s been dealt to us, and manage to make something poignant, urgent, and meaningful. The technical difficulties that plagued the show throughout the evening would’ve definitely upset most, but in traditional Bastille fashion, they made something beautiful out of struggles; and with “Pompeii” they most definitely created a moment that was much more lasting and touching to everyone than the alternative would’ve been if the night had gone by without any difficulty. At the end of the night, the moral of the story is: If everyone works together, with the same mission, there’s no mountain that’s too high to climb, and no doom days that are too rough to get through.
📸© Nicole Almeida