BASTILLE completed their meteoric rise in recent years by debuting at the Manchester Arena on Sunday night to 13,500 fans.
The London based band returned to the city that, apart from two appearances at Parklife, they haven’t they haven’t been to since March 2014.
Dressed head to toe in black and white whilst donning their now familiar Bastille logo the four artists that make up the band made up for lost time in the city by wooing the Manchester crowd from the word go.
The first three tracks ‘Send Them Off!’ ‘Laura Palmer’ and ‘Warmth’ were all met by rapturous cheers from the adoring crowd.
There was something of a juxtaposition on stage, where whilst the band stayed almost stationary throughout their performance, lead singer Dan Smith threw himself into all corners of the stage, clearly revelling playing to Britain’s largest indoor arena.
By the fourth song ‘Snakes’, the penultimate track of the band’s latest album ‘Wide World’, from which the tour name derives, the initial euphoria of the gig had waned slightly, with the first four rows of the audience bouncing up and down in enjoyment, everyone else not so much.
One trademark of Smith’s live performances is his tendency to invade the audience.
It was tricky to see whether this would be possible inside the Arena but during the fifth song ‘Flaws’ the 30 year old, perhaps sensing a lull in the crowd, decided to charge out into the masses, high fiving those he passed whist in no way allowing his vocals to be detrimentally affected.
Smith clearly is a frontman of the people.
The mood of the arena changed discernibly during the next track ‘Oblivion’, a song with clear emotional significance to in particular Smith and the Manchester crowd respected this, showing their entertainment by shining the lights on their phones rather than screaming whilst Smith divulged his emotions.
Power em Manchester! pic.twitter.com/7oDnNyx19a
— Bastille News Brasil (@bastillenewsbr) November 6, 2016
The solemn nature of ‘Oblivion’ contrasted wonderfully with the two songs that followed ‘Lethargy’ and in particular the hit, ‘Things We Lost in the Fire’ which was particularly well received by the Mancunian crowd before another slower song in ‘The Draw’ was played.
In truth the middle part of the gig was non-eventful, perhaps that is a by-product of Bastille, a band with only two studio albums to their name, performing a 22 song set at the Manchester Arena.
The black and white theme was adhered to, particularly on the large screens at the side of the stage and a newsreader character, who had appeared before the band took to the stage, regularly appeared fronting the ‘Wild World Communications’ broadcast, but this part of the gig was a disappointment.
It proved to be just the calm before the storm however as Smith took to a second stage in the centre of the audience again and kicked life back into the concert with ‘Of the Night’. This undeniably re-energised the crowd as the band headed into the final third of the gig, the vast majority crouching at Smith’s request on numerous occasions.
The newsreader appeared again creating a distraction allowing Smith to slide back onto the main stage before playing ‘Fake It’ and ‘Weight of Living, Pt. II’ which again went down well with the punters.
Smith then showed his human nature on two counts.
Firstly by acknowledging how proud he was that his band had worked their way up the venues to the Manchester Arena, Bastille had frequented the Apollo and Academy stages numerous times in 2013 and 2014.
Secondly by singing ‘Glory’ in such a way that we the audience felt every word resonated with him on a human level. This accompanied by the visual element of a man staring off a skyscraper, as seen on the album cover of ‘Wild World’ felt like a poignant moment.
The band then played the very popular 2016 single ‘Good Grief’ and all those even in the seated area took to their feet to dance before the entire ensemble vacated the stage and took to the top tier of one of the stands for a final ‘slowy’ of the night in ‘Two Evils’.
Watching a band perform from essentially within a stand at the Manchester Arena was a unique experience and was strongly admired by those nearby who were now getting an unexpected but much welcomed closer look at the band.
The night ended with the group gracing the stage for a final time, Smith bounded about with as much energy as he had done all night during ‘Icarus’ before delighting the crowd with ‘Pompeii’, the band’s most recognisable song.
There was a nice touch during the final track as Rationale and the opening support act Leah Dou joined the headliners on the stage to play the drum aspect of the song as a collective showing the unity between all three of the acts before the now harem of people on the stage all took their bows.
In short Bastille seem like nice enough guys and they have some massive crowd-pleasers in their repertoire.
However, it seems that they have shot to fame before honing their live skills to match. Manchester Arena is -aside from perhaps football stadia – Manchester’s premier location for a concert, so surely they still have some growing to do before this is the kind of stage that befits them?
The likes of Take That, Madness and Green Day all have dates pencilled in over the next three months, Bastille aren’t yet at that level. Dan Smith is a quality frontman. He brings energy and a sense of gravitas to proceedings but the rest of the band felt like non-entities with little in the way of personality.
By Jordan Davies