Bastille at the Olympia Theatre, 25th of October 2013

A lot people have issues with Bastille. Despite massive radio play and a huge following, they don’t get much talking up from critics and when mentioning them to “serious” music fans, you are generally greeted with a shrug or a snort of derision. Band leader Dan Smith is surely well aware of this. His songwriting style does not leave much room for subtlety and tends to bludgeon you with very sincere lyrics and huge choruses. While that may be an issue when listening to an album by the group, it does at least mean their songs are practically designed to be played for a crowd and they did indeed put on quite a good show.

After the opening salvo of Bad Blood and Things We Lost in the Fire, any cynics in the crowd were probably starting to get it. The video projections of Alsatians running through the desert might have confused a few though. Dan Smith has one of those voices that really “isn’t for everyone” but there are no technical issues with him as a singer and he was fairly on-point all night. The energy levels were suitably high throughout as well and he knows how to get the crowd going.

Although Bastille is centred around Smith, the rest of the band do a good job of transferring the songs to the stage. Drummer Chris Wood in particular plays with a huge amount of energy and fills out the theatre fairly well. There are also random drums left around the stage for other band members to bang at will.

Starting off with two of their most anthemic songs meant that naturally there was a bit of a dip after the start, but even the slower songs like These Streets involve lots of “woah-oh-oh” choruses for everyone to chant along to. They play a few new songs that people seemed to be inexplicably familiar with as well. The good news is that the new material seems to show an amount of progression for the band, with some guitar toughening up their sound a bit.

While the new songs aren’t bad, things really get going once they get back to more familiar territory. A cover of R&B song What Would You Do? by City High gets a great response. Laura Palmer and Weight of Living go over similarly. You can say what you like about the band but they do know how to write a catchy chorus.

When it comes to the encore, it didn’t take much effort to guess what songs they would pull out for it. Their mash-up of Rhythm is a Dancer and Rhythm of the Night is a crowd-pleaser naturally enough before we finally get to Pompeii. The song has been played so much on the radio that it would be easy to hate it at this stage but it’s hard not to get caught up with the rest of the crowd when it comes on and finishes off the show nicely. Bastille still are not the greatest band in the world but if they could transfer some of the energy of their live show onto record, they could be a lot more interesting.

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Photos: Mark Earley

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