If you ran into Bastille after their own Apple Music Festival set and asked frontman Dan Smith for an account of his evening, he’d conceivably skip past the bit about their confetti-strewn fans screaming hit single ‘Pompeii’ back at them, and tell you instead about how great their secret special guest Craig David was. “We’ve basically been working with this band for four, five years,” Smith jokes as David comes on, “and it’s culminated with us being Craig David’s backing band tonight.” Tonight they bring everything to their performance, and their resulting set is on a par with those already completed by industry veterans on the AMF lineup – Elton John, Alicia Keys and Robbie Williams among them. But, ever modest and full of thanks during his stage chat, frontman Dan Smith still seems slightly awed by his place on a stage that is being live-streamed in more than 100 countries worldwide and will, tomorrow, be graced by Britney Spears. He needn’t be.
Bastille are currently riding the enviable wave of their second album ‘Wild World’, which entered the UK Chart at Number One two-and-a-half weeks ago and has stayed there since. Tonight’s set is predominantly made up of this new collection of songs – big-hitting tunes, on big-hitting subjects like corporate greed and political ugliness – and most of these new tracks are as ravenously received by fans as the songs from ‘Bad Blood’, the debut that made Bastille famous (‘Of The Night’, ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’, ‘Flaws’ and the aforementioned trump card ‘Pompeii’ included). Over the course of the 90-minute set, these old favourites are sprinkled here and there, but the crowd’s reaction doesn’t indicate they’re any less familiar with the tracks that are barely a fortnight old.
That said, there are clear peaks. The bold, brassy opener of ‘Send Them Off!’ immediately satisfies the crowd’s anticipation, and just a few songs later, on ‘Flaws’, Dan Smith is gamely leaping into the photographer’s pit and leaning out into the crowd, before heading around the side and straight into the throng, crossing the width of the venue under a web of arms and phones. There’s little point resisting melodies like those on ‘An Act of Kindness’ or ‘Snakes’, and their new album’s lead single ‘Good Grief’, accompanied by smoke machines and whooping, sends the set sky-high as Smith continues to leap about the stage rousing the crowd. And it’s then that Craig David shows up, when Smith has already turned the venue into a cheering fray.
The collaboration itself is brilliant, and brilliantly unexpected – David contributes vocals for ‘Fake It’, takes the lead on his mix of ‘Fill Me In’ and Jack Ü/Justin Bieber collaboration ‘Where Are Ü Now’, and alongside Dan he bashes out ‘Rhythm Is A Dancer’ while massive red balloons are knocked about like huge pool balls in the crowd’s uplifted arms. At this point you might expect Smith’s clarion of a vocal to be struggling slightly, but it’s as strong as ever, right up to the point when the streamers and confetti fall on the crowd during ‘Pompeii’, the set’s climactic moment of triumph. And, largely, triumph is what this set does: it’s too late for modesty now.