Has Reading Festival changed? Back in the hardcore days it may have bottled the likes of Bastille with enough piss, mud and deckchairs to bury the entire stage; today it sings along. They’re a much nicer bunch in 2015, and the group’s Radio 1 playlist-friendly brand of rock finds them in a third-on-the-Main-Stage breakout slot in front of one of the biggest crowds of the day. They are undeniably massive.
Bastille’s 2013 debut album ‘Bad Blood’ was built on a simple but clearly effective formula: catchy, almost boyband-like pop anthems with Florence tribal drumming on. But of late, singer and chief songwriter Dan Smith has been rumoured to be working with a wide array of people from David Lynch to Haim and French DJ Madeon. So the question is, how has this affected Bastille’s new music and where do they go next?
Well, one new song called ‘Blame’, knocked out mid-set today, has been floating around since summer 2014, showing brief signs of a scuzzed-up Black Keys influence in the intro, before turning into a Mumford-aping folk epic with heavy hints of Scot stompers Runrig. The two other new songs they deliver suggest even more variety on the way for album two. ‘Hangin’’ shares reggae-lite hints with The Libertines’ ‘Gunga Din’ before breaking into a big wail-along chorus and has Smith cooing “don’t leave me hanging”, either frustrated at being strung along by a not-so-special someone or admitting he’s the world’s worst high-fiver.
Finally, ‘Snakes’ throws Northern Soul beats and grandiose gospel choruses into the mix, suggesting parts of their new album will sound like a Pentecostal service in a town called Malice. It’s definitely a sonic development. There’s an on-stage change too: for the new songs Smith leaves the stand-up drum kit he hammers on for the rest of the set, and gives himself some more room. It might still be 2016 before a new album arrives, but for now, Bastille’s summer festival set offers a tantalising taste of what’s to come.