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BASTILLE gig review and interview

Not often do you expect a band’s frontman to approach you first, promptly responding “I know” once you faintly introduce yourself just as a… er… teenage music journo starting off. (bearing in mind they’re practically famous with their strong video average of 300,000 something YouTube views.) That’s the thing about BASTILLE. Right down to the details, they make you feel special; like you’re really part of something.

Main-man Dan Smith smiles, wincing in the 7pm sunlight of the picturesque Avon Gorge. So, Dan, why this venue? Dan answers, “People chose Bristol as one of the places they wanted us. The Clifton Suspension Bridge is the icon of the city, so why not. Hopefully it’ll be alright.”

Okay, so I’m told this is known popularly as ‘guerrilla gigging’, a gig in a non-traditional setting or arranged alternatively. With their feel for the unconventional in mind, I ask, do you consider yourself a bit of a hipster? “Haha. I’m a bit of a loser really”.

Eager to know what makes BASTILLE different from other acts before they show us for ourselves, I ask Dan. “Er, I don’t know. We probably sound like everyone else to be honest.”

… really?

The single released only the day before, BASTILLE kick off their Triangle Tour with a surprisingly mature performance of ‘Bad Blood’. Mumford & Sons reminiscent (and just as vocally strong), “‘Bad Blood’ is about relationships when you’re young and a bit older”, Dan says, succinctly. That might sound all a bit too general, but it’s certainly relatable. The talent in BASTILLE relies in their towering capability to capture audience attention with their exceedingly high accessibility and obvious down-to-earth nature.

With his own chorus-like declaration of “thank-yous”, Dan urgently interrupts the setlist with another reminder of his humbleness and genuine appreciation of his fans. Stepping up from their instruments, (which were already minimal), the quartet treat us with an acapella rendition of ‘Overjoyed’, an earlier claim to fame on the popular stripped-down indie WatchListenTell YouTube channel.  Soaring vocal harmonies amid infectious beats dip, sway and climb the depths of the gig’s unique location, really highlighting BASTILLE’s exceptionally raw and natural flair. Glinting in the sun, Dan places soul into heartfelt track ‘Flaws’ with his hand-on-chest whilst eloquently weaving in and out of electro beeps. ‘Flaws’ is surely sentimental to Dan- it was his own D.I.Y. attitude to the track’s video, a snippet of 1973 crime-drama  film ‘Badlands’, which placed BASTILLE on the map with the track’s resulting popularity. Inviting the audience to choose the next track to be performed, you admire his respect for the fanbase. Forgetting the ‘Things We Lost in the Fire’ and any accompanying doubts that they won’t be who they want to be, Dan bellows out “the futures in our hands”, indicative of the group’s  sheer determination to obtain success. Two more pop-friendly numbers follow, ‘Laura Palmer’ and ‘Icarus’, engaging the audience in vigorous feet tapping and head bopping.

Already a more than reasonable setlist especially considering this was all free, Dan agrees to ‘Sleepsong’ in response to yelps of ‘encore, encore’. “Um, we hadn’t practised this for today, so, here goes our first rehearsal…”, he laughs. And it was faultless. This is what it all comes down to: BASTILLE, virtually effortlessly, have that stripped-bare talent which leaves us wanting more.

“Of course” is Dan’s friendly answer to screams of “can we have a photo?”, yet another display of the close-knit intimacy which is all too indicative of this unique gig and the BASTILLE experience.

Okay, so when will we have more? Just finishing the album this week, it’s getting marketed at the end of this month. It’s terrifying, it’ll be hard to say its finished and let go.” Wait for it… “It’ll be out early next year”, he adds. Brilliant news!

Certainly a lot better than they realise they are, but modesty isn’t one of Dan’s ‘Flaws’. His ensemble is all that more likeable because of the unpretentious outlook around which it revolves. I genuinely cannot sing out enough praise for BASTILLE. Watch out for them at Reading and Leeds this year.



Editor of LLR since 2005

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