Victoria Warehouse Manchester, February 4 2019
Bastille’s frenetic ‘Wild World’ tour featured politically loaded imagery, such as a drag queen Theresa May – while songs such as ‘The Currents’ reflected the rise of populists like Nigel Farage treating the country as their own Fleshlight. While last time round channeled the flux of upheaval, at times this ‘Still Avoiding Tomorrow’ show – the third of five gigs offering a glimpse of material from forthcoming third album ‘Doom Days’ (which frontman Dan Smith describes as an “apocalyptic party record”) feels like it’s dealing with the fallout: we’re partying in Bastille’s post-Brexit nuclear bunker, while pensioners outside battle to death in an Asda Thunderdome for the last Fray Bentos pie.
Self-confessed cinephiles, it may be Bastille’s most filmic staging. Digital alarm clock displays flash on screen, along with Instagram caption-like snippets of lyrics. Bathed in a solo white spotlight, Smith opens with a plaintive version of their cover of Cat Stevens’s ‘Wild World’ from their recent ‘Other People’s Heartache, Pt. 4’ mixtape, before the band kick in to euphoric ‘Doom Days’ lead single ‘Quarter Past Midnight’ – if this is the end of days, then Bastille have stockpiled arena-friendly choruses and millennial whoops. For their Craig David co-sign ‘I Know You’, support act Moss Kena bounds onstage to duet (“This is the first time we’ve done this but he’s got an insane voice,” eulogises Smith), while Smith tosses his cap off during a raucous ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’, revealing the head he shaved in the ‘Quarter Past Midnight’ video. Cynics might wonder why a frontman often cited as being a visually nondescript everyman might elect to get rid of his one distinctive, identifiable feature (his towering quiff), but it’s perhaps indicative of a band in metamorphosis. Having laid down the blueprint for indie-pop that’s since become ubiquitous, it’s interesting to contrast older tracks like the Coldplay-maximalism of ‘Bad Blood’ to the new, comparatively risk-taking clubbier Seeb collab ‘Grip’, which Smith tonight describes as “out of our comfort zone”; its drop like an open manhole elicits sweaty frugging.
Midway through, a tattered ‘70s-resembling sofa is brought onstage as Smith performs new track 4am – a subdued, nocturnal hymnal song about spending 4am surrounded “by old friends and new” – lounging on it as of he’s suffering from the worst comedown of all time and is waiting for the Deliveroo to arrive, as the stage revolves to reveal ‘DOOM DAYS’ scrawled on the back of the couch. If ‘Quarter Past Midnight’ was the night-out, ‘4am’ is the chillout. It’s followed by the downcast lament ‘World Gone Mad’, from the Netflix film Bright, as hands sway.
The pace is raised for the third act of the show, with ‘Pompeii’ – performed on a revolving platform in front of footage of atomic bomb mushroom clouds – being so bombastic, you half expect the Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse to turn up on backing vocals. It’s like Eurovision meets Threads. Similarly, the Corona/Snap! mash-up ‘Of The Night’ gets the crowd ricocheting, while the ramped-up energy levels are capitalised on with an encore that begins with the Marshmello-assisted summer banger ‘Happier’. The message is clear. Outside, “No Deal” chaos is mounting and people are eyeing up Irish passports with the gimlet desperation of a Fyre event organiser gazing at a bottle of Evian, but inside Bastille’s bunker, we can dance through it all.
‘Quarter Past Midnight’
‘Send Them Off!’
‘I Know You’
‘Things We Lost In The Fire’
‘World Gone Mad’
‘One Evil’ / ‘Get Home’
‘Daniel In The Den’
‘Of The Night’