A digital ticking clock flashed ominously across the screen, counting the moments until the crowd’s cheers would be answered and Bastille would appear on-stage. Finally, lead singer Dan Smith appeared along with the rest of the band, as “Act One” blared brightly followed by the lyrics of “Quarter Past Midnight,” the first song off of Bastille’s 2019 album Doom Days. The crowd swung their arms wildly in the air, embodying the euphoric mood of the song. Doom Days tells the story of one person’s messy evening split into three acts, and the ticking clock was a constant as the audience time-traveled through the dark night with Bastille. The Greek Theatre proved to be the perfect venue, as Bastille’s performance was equal parts cinematic and musical — a one-of-a-kind concert.
Smith, adorned in a plaid shirt, jeans and Vans, turned the large venue into more of an intimate gathering with genuine interactions with the audience and poignant insight into the experience Bastille hoped to create with Doom Days.
“We wanted to make an album that was about escapism — escaping from things like phone addiction and climate change and all the stuff in your own life that you’d rather not think about for a minute,” Smith said in an earnest appeal to the audience. Songs from Bastille’s previous albums fit in perfectly with this somewhat depressing storyline, as exemplified by the performance of “Things We Lost In The Fire” from debut album Bad Blood — the destructive image of an atom bomb detonating on repeat in the background as flames made by orange lighting and smoke licked the stage.
Bastille’s synth-pop sound was made recognizable by Smith’s unique voice, and Bastille’s performance similarly felt like a one-man show. “Two Evils” featured Smith sitting atop a set of stairs, his profile visible to the audience, framed by the backdrop of an empty city, evoking feelings of loneliness. The haunting melody and the torment in Smith’s voice, as he moaned out the lyrics, gave the concert a theatrical element that was soaked up by the crowd swaying with flashlights and lighting up the night.
When Bastille brought out Daniel Armbruster, lead singer of Joywave, to perform “Bad Decisions,” the two lead singers were almost nose-to-nose as they yelled out lyrics in a melodramatic standoff. Bastille’s focus on incorporating multimedia and artistic elements in order to tell a cohesive story on its tour was thoughtful and made the performance engaging and unique.
As the clock struck 4 a.m. on the screen, Bastille launched into its song of the same name and Smith sat down in a hero’s pose at the front of the stage, genuinely engaging with the crowd as he sang out, “Here, here my family / You are my familiar, you are my familiar.” The crowd sang back emotionally, taking a moment to be present in a performance concentrated on avoidance.
Bastille created a communal experience by effortlessly engaging with the crowd — at one point, to security’s dismay, Smith forged a path straight through the crowd, taking time to jam with the audience members by creating pockets of jumping, screaming fans around himself. The crowd struggled to get close to him, and lucky fans planted kisses on his cheek.
Bastille shone brightly at the Greek, magically turning the 8500-seat amphitheater into a feel-good, intimate singalong with friends. At times, Smith’s musical talent took an intentional backseat to the onstage drama that kept the crowd captivated as the clock ticked from midnight to daybreak. Bastille intended for Doom Days to provide an escape and the band delivered. The bleakness that coats Bastille’s lyrics was stripped to reveal a night of freedom from the mundane. Smith asked the audience to “choose to go with the night and let it take (them) wherever it might,” and the Bastille superfans were truly transported.
Highlights of the set: “Happier,” “Blame,” “4AM”