Bastille’s “apocalyptic house party” album ‘Doom Days’ could double as a concept album about a night out at Glastonbury – just swap the Uber in ‘Quarter Past Midnight’ for a gigantic queue of people walking up to Shangri-La and the kitchen floor in ‘Joy’ for the bit when you pass out metres from the sweet canvas shelter of your tent. It would be the perfect record for the band to play a later set, the rave-y elements of the songs complemented by the dark of night.
Instead, they’re playing a mid-afternoon set on the Pyramid Stage – an honour, given the main stage’s iconic status, but not the ideal reflection of ‘Doom Days’’ story. But Bastille are not a band to let that hold them back or deliver just a “normal set”. They bring extra musicians, stage props that add to the feeling of the songs, and visuals that make everything that little bit more special.
Much like their new album, each song is time-stamped. A red digital clock face appears on the screen at the back of the stage at the start of each new track. There’s a turntable on stage that spins at regular intervals, as if it’s counting down the time itself. During ‘Send Em Off’, Smith and three brass players stand on it as it turns. For ‘Two Evils’, he leaves Will Farquarson to play his melancholy guitar line at the front of the stage while he climbs up a ladder at the back and sits in front of a red moon and the image of a burning nightscape seen through a gap in the curtains.
‘Those Nights’ sees Smith pull on a baby pink jacket and hide his eyes under the hood, as if he’s been hurtled forward in time to the crushing comedown on Tuesday. As the song ends, he grabs a EU flag out of nowhere and drapes it around his shoulders for ‘Doom Days’. It’s a fitting move – towards its end Smith references Brexit in the line: “We’ll be the proud remainers/Here til the morning breaks us.” The line that follows instantly transports us back to 2016, when the band played on the day the EU referendum results were announced: “We run away from real life, thoughts tonight.”
There are cameos – Rationale takes on Craig David’s parts in ‘I Know You’ and former touring buddy Lewis Capaldi joins the band for ‘Joy’ – and moments that feel built for the nighttime. During Bastille’s traditional mash-up ‘Of The Night’, Smith stands on top of his ladder, facing the screen as the words pop up one by one, making him look on the big screens like a borrower doing karaoke. ‘Million Pieces’ is a rave-y highlight, while ‘Good Grief’ has the frontman spinning out – literally. He spends some of the song laid on the turntable as it spins faster, hand over his face like he can’t take it anymore.
The whole thing feels like a big moment for Bastille. The field is packed as far as you can see and, even though they’ve been a huge, arena-headlining band for years, it feels like both a levelling up and a celebration of that in the moment it happens. “This festival and this weekend is our favourite weekend in the whole fucking year,” Smith, who despite his self-deprecation looks the most comfortable he ever has on stage, says at one point in the set. “Everyone says it but getting to play here on this stage blows my mind.” He should get used to it – the main stage looks set to be Bastille’s new home.