Review: Bastille at the O2 Academy

Published

Credit: Flickr / Franklin Heijnen

Rebecca Scott
Travel Editor

Travel Editor Rebecca Scott checks out Bastille’s performance at the O2 Academy supported by Lewis Capaldi on February 6

Seeing Bastille perform in a venue like O2 Academy – with a capacity of just 2500 – seems like stumbling across some hushed-up secret. Their sustained commercial success means that they could easily play larger venues in Glasgow – indeed, they headlined the SSE Hydro on their Wild World tour in 2016. Unsurprisingly, the sold-out show is packed to the brim with fans, and the hall echoes with their enthused chattering.

A support act in the form of Scotland’s own Lewis Capaldi is up first, and, if the screams of the crowd are anything to go by, Capaldi certainly already has some clout with Bastille fans. The singer-slash-Instagram-connoisseur appears on the stage, arms extended, with a pair of blackout children’s sunglasses obscuring his eyes. He welcomes the audience to his half hour of self-proclaimed “sad fucking songs” with “Fade”, donning an electric guitar and belting out the vocals with captivating raw energy. Throughout Capaldi’s set, it becomes increasingly easy to see just why he was recently awarded MTV Push’s “One To Watch” for 2019: never before have I seen an audience so enthralled by a supporting act. The crowd sings back every word to him with such candid vigour that it becomes all too easy to forget that this isn’t actually Lewis Capaldi’s headlining show.

Capaldi injects his set with authentic Scottish humour, reminiscent of staple Scottish comedians such as Limmy and Kevin Bridges. If Capaldi didn’t have the crowd captivated already, his broad Glaswegian accent seals the deal, as he sells himself with an indisputable, “my songs are sad and my BMI’s through the fucking roof”. And despite the overwhelming melancholic content of his songs, Capaldi’s set leaves the audience thoroughly amused and entertained.

As Capaldi exits to rambunctious cheering and applause, a curtain that reads “STILL AVOIDING TOMORROW?” drops over the stage as Bastille’s crew begin to set up. It’s another half hour of impatient anticipation from the crowd until the venue’s lights go out and cheers erupt – mostly because we don’t have to stare at some unsettlingly existentialist words on a curtain anymore.

Instead, the curtain is illuminated in white light and a spotlight finds vocalist, Dan Smith, creating a large silhouette of him, imprinted upon the curtain’s surface. Smith belts out the unaccompanied “Wild World – Intro” from the band’s fourth EP, and the audience is treated to the full extent of his vocal ability. The song builds and builds, adding harmonies and backing vocals, until the curtain drops and the band smashes straight into the fast-paced single, “Quarter Past Midnight”. The digital screen backdrop is put to full use, with bright pops of colour and zany visuals lighting up the stage and the musicians. Smith darts around the stage, hyping up the crowd and jumping on every surface he can get his feet on; his enthusiasm is endearing and infectious and just about causes a full-on dance party to break out in the crowd.

The band barrel through the extensive set-list, playing their own well-known songs (“Things We Lost In The Fire”), alongside their collaborations with other artists (“I Know You” with Craig David; “Happier” with Marshmello). The highlight of the set comes with the currently unreleased “4AM”, a stripped-back song off the band’s upcoming third LP, Doom Days. A standing lamp and a tattered old sofa are brought out and placed on a rotating platform at the back on the stage, upon which Smith lays down, his hood covering his eyes. In the song, Smith sings candidly about the relaxed comedown following a night out with friends. Not particularly the most touching subject matter, yet the choral-infused harmonies, the soft lighting and Smith’s slow rotation on the platform sofa allow this song to feel so much more intimate and personal than anything that preceded it.

The slow tempo isn’t to last, however, as the band quickly find themselves diving into the high paced staples of their set, “Pompeii” and “Good Grief”. The crowd laps these songs up, and the floor physically shakes with the jumping of ecstatic fans. Lewis Capaldi returns to the stage to join Bastille for “Bad Blood”, and once again steals the limelight – the ringing acoustics of the venue make this a truly memorable performance, with Smith’s and Capaldi’s vocals mixing together with a remarkable synergy.

Bastille’s hour-and-a-half set draws to a close with “Flaws”, one of their first radio hits. The crowd sways in tempo with the song, still wholly captivated by the band in front of them, and as Smith sings about flaws, one thing is for certain – tonight’s set had none.