Not many bands are able to channel what are “depressing” songs, in their own words, with the dressing of joyful instrumental and melodic disguises, but Bastille have found a formula that has allowed them to break through into the mainstream and still maintain credible critical appeal due to their depth and brilliance.
Lead singer Dan Smith’s songs and Bastille’s albums are able to find resonance with their audience through relatable lyrics spoken in symbolic yet non-obscure language, which allow them to feel unpretentious even though they are carefully manicured pieces of art.
Off the release of their latest studio album, Bastille kicked off their North American Doom Days Pt 1 Tour dates this month, stopping by Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. The night was a high energy affair that felt less like a concert than an evening tagging along for the ride inside lead singer Dan Smith’s episodic brain and psyche. Noticeable throughout the night was Bastille’s uncanny ability to bring the crowd’s mood up or down like puppets on strings at any time, with the crowd’s full emotional investment in the journey.
Split into three acts, the night was structured to tell the story of the new Doom Days album, beginning at 12:15am and ending at 8am, tracked on a clock throughout the night on-screen behind the stage, taking everyone through what Dan Smith calls “a typical night out,” for himself, after which the album was themed.
Act 1 kicked off with a bang as “Quarter Past Midnight” got things underway, followed by “Send Them Off!” from their 2016 album Wild World. Following “Evil Eye,” where Smith sat alone atop a platform ladder, the band broke into an interlude that ultimately led to their hit song “Happier,” further building the energy as the crowd danced and sang to each word.
As Act 1 came toward a close, Smith and the band then retreated a bit to take a more maudlin tone as the subject matter became more introspective and global, highlighting some of the plights in modern day society and the global political climate, pushing the evening into Act 2, “Those Nights.”
Act 2 came with a set change adding a rotating sofa painted with DOOM DAYS on it, as Smith, newly outfitted in a white hoodie, belted their fittingly titled song “When I Watch The World Burn All I Think About Is You” while the lyrics bounced on the screen behind him.
Following some more downtempo songs, Bastille made it clear that the middle “depressing part” was over and that they aimed to bring the show back to peak energy for the third act. Act 3, “The Morning Doesn’t Reach Us” then catapulted into “Joy” which got the entire crowd bouncing again, in what was probably peak energy for the evening before later ending with their most famous hit “Pompeii.”