A big Sunday night out at the leisure centre isn’t exactly the first setting that comes to mind when you’re thinking about the best nights out you’ve had – or those that are still to come. Bastille are aware of this as they begin the penultimate show of their ‘Doom Days’ club night tour, at Portsmouth’s Pyramids Centre. The run of dates was intended as a celebration of their third album, which was released in June, and the band have tried to recreate the feeling of the hedonistic, escapist night out at the centre of the record’s narrative.
- Read more: Inside ‘Still Avoiding Tomorrow’, Bastille’s captivating immersive theatrical experience and ‘Doom Days’ celebration
That’s why the backdrop hung up behind the stage tonight (December 8) is designed to look like a familiar scene; a wall plastered in flyers for club nights and raves, each haphazardly layered poster pulling from ‘Doom Days’ lyrics and mixing them with imagery like luminous yellow smiley faces. The night is split into two sets – one in which Bastille play their most recent album in full, and another where the band return as Chaos Planet to play older material. Before and between the sets, a playlist blasts over the PA of songs intended to spark revelry, including Happy Mondays and, amusingly, Kool & The Gang’s ‘Ladies Night’.
The timing of the tour couldn’t be better if Bastille had infiltrated Number 10 and scheduled an election for a few days after its end themselves – if the country ever needed a chance to get away from reality, it’s now. But to escape things, you also have to acknowledge them at least a little bit. Frontman Dan Smith’s bright pink “JUST VOTE” t-shirt serves as tonight’s reminder of what we’re running away from.
Bastille’s set might not quite reach the levels of the grimy rave the band ask the audience to pretend they’re at, but it does provide some much-needed relief from depressing headlines and the doom and gloom thrust into your retinas from your phone’s endless scroll. The songs impact in a different way than they did at Glastonbury, in if not happier, then at least marginally less bleak times. Little moments jump out more in the context of this tour, like the drawn-out siren sound in ‘Million Pieces’, drummer Woody’s thumping bass drum on the title track, or the part in ‘The Waves’ where Smith’s vocals sound like he’s singing underwater. ‘Divide’ – a plea for unity that works on both a micro and macro scale – is accompanied by the crowd waving their lit-up phones. The whole scene is reflected in the tip of the venue’s glass pyramid ceiling. As Smith sings the last chorus (“Why would we divide/When we could come together?”), his voice sound more urgent and intense than ever.
After ‘Nocturnal Creatures’, Smith darts off stage and re-emerges at the mixing desk at the back of the room for ‘4am’, a circle of red fairy lights around his head. The crowd swarm around his plinth as if they too want to feel the power and comfort of human relationships he sings of.
After the jubilant ‘Joy’ wraps up the first set, the band return dressed in tie-dye t-shirts, faces smeared with day-glo face paint. Smith’s shaved head is sprayed blue. The Chaos Planet (initially a name the band played a secret show under back on second album ‘Wild World’) section of the night is meant to feel like a covers band so it’s fitting they begin with a beefed-up version of this year’s John Lewis Christmas ad soundtrack, REO Speedwagon’s ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’. Apart from the traditional ‘Of The Night’ mash-up and new song ‘Good Lesson’, the rest of the setlist is pulled from Bastille’s older records, going as deep as ‘Bad Blood’ hidden track ‘Weight Of Living Pt. 1’ and as recent as last year’s chart-topping Marshmello collab ‘Happier’. For the latter, Smith gets lost in the crowd. The only sign of where he is the occasional glimpse of a tie-dyed arm rising and falling with each of Kyle Simmons’ euphoric synth stabs.
Before ‘Pompeii’, the final song of the night, Smith tells the audience: “We’ve made a whole career off of two syllables.” That track’s “eh eh oh” refrain – sung very enthusiastically back at the band tonight – might have kickstarted Bastille’s journey but, as the two halves of the gig show, since then they’ve proved themselves to be a band always thinking outside of the box, with a knack for tapping into the collective anxieties of the world around them. ‘Doom Days’ might have completed the first trilogy of Bastille, but this celebration makes it clear they have plenty of ideas left yet.
‘Quarter Past Midnight’
Chaos Planet played:
‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’
‘Weight Of Living Pt. 1’
‘Of The Night’