2 November 2016 saw the second night of Bastille‘s largest show to date, at the O2 Arena in London – which happens to be the band’s hometown. The first time they played in London, said frontman Dan Smith, was in a small pub in Camden. “It’s completely ridiculous that we’re allowed to be here,” Smith said throughout the night.
His modesty was genuine, which made the performance all the more likable. Between songs Smith often remarked how he “can’t dance.” But the sheer amount of energy Smith put into his performance – by constantly jumping around on stage and magically appearing on the arena floor or in the stands amidst a near-hysterical audience – completely negated his self-proclaimed lack of coordination. Smith bantered with keyboardist Kyle Simmons, while drummer Chris “Woody” Wood and bassist/guitarist Will Farquarson jammed. Stand-out performances from violinists on “Things We Lost in the Fire” and “Glory,” and trumpeters on “Weight of Living, Pt. II” further supported the band’s musical prowess.
The arena itself contributed to the magic of the show, bringing us in to Bastille’s dystopian story of the “wild world.” A large screen behind the band and a boxy, television-like upper display roll clips of CCTV camera feeds, the cheesy suited newscaster from their “Fake It” music video, cityscapes, and more. Lighting changes from blue to red to bright white, always shining on Smith, keeping our eyes on the singer (as if we could look anywhere else).
In all honesty, before this concert I was skeptical about Bastille’s newest album, Wild World, which inspired this tour. I love Bastille, so I’m predisposed to liking anything they release. But even Wild World‘s catchiest tunes, “Good Grief” and “Send Them Off!” didn’t affect me as much as their first album, Bad Blood, did. Wild World is full of heavy musings on modern-day issues: corrupt politicians, the addiction to technology, and the apparent coldness of our society. When a song’s lyrics are so contemplative, it’s a little difficult to placidly bop one’s head to the beat.
But Bastille’s performance, by combining a genuinely likable band, visual theatrics, and meaningful lyrics, changed my mind. Sure, they sound different live than on their records – but the difference comes in the real, in-your-face experience Bastille gives each audience member. The show reminded me why I love attending live concerts: the act of just taking time out of one’s day to listen to and really appreciate good music, with hundreds of other people who all feel the same way around you. Despite all the talk about a polluted modern society, I felt pretty inspired after leaving the arena, and I can’t wait to see what scenario Bastille creates next.