Bastille in a Wild World
by Cole Schoneman
Photography by Cole Schoneman
British alt-rock band Bastille has a knack for turning depressing, introspective lyrics into loveable, catchy songs. This musical prowess presented itself brilliantly at Agganis Arena on March 27, waking a dead Monday night crowd by delivering a stellar, no-frills arena rock performance.
The night got off to a rocky start, however, beginning with an underwhelming opening act and some vocal hiccups.
The backing vocalists in the touring band easily outclassed folk-rock singer-songwriter Josh Ostrander, who goes by stage name “Mondo Cozmo.” His strange EDM beats and downtempo single “Shine” didn’t do much to get the crowd engaged.
Bastille began their set with a clip from their Wild World video series, which features corrupt fictional news anchor “WWCOMMS” in a censored, dystopian society.
WWCOMMS made several appearances throughout the night and even mouthed along to every word of “Fake It,” projected on a giant monitor behind the stage. His performance was as hilarious as it was politically relevant.
Vocalist Dan Smith struggled through the first half of “Send Them Off!,” a song otherwise lending itself perfectly to a set opener. The triumphant brass intro was undermined by some mixing issues that were resolved several songs later.
Smith got in the groove by the end of their second song, “Laura Palmer,” from Bastille’s debut album Bad Blood. He sounded fully warmed up and ready to show off his excellent range on “Warmth,” a hidden gem off their new album Wild World.
His energy was contagious. Despite All This Bad Blood being a rather uninspired remix album, songs like “Of the Night” were infinitely more enjoyable live with the entire arena dancing than just listening to it alone.
“I’m probably the worst dancer in Boston,” Smith said before telling the crowd to get off their feet and mimic his dorky moves. He waved his finger like a lasso during “Lethargy,” signaling the crowd to spin in a circle with him.
“Flaws” stood out as the song of the night. Smith ran through the pit while singing the first verse and finished on the B, or secondary, stage. Every arm in the crowd was bobbing up and down by the last chorus.
Lyrically, Bastille stands in a league of their own when it comes to ballads. “Oblivion” was melancholy and beautiful live, featuring Smith on grand piano.
While Smith stood out as an energetic and talented front man, the rhythm section was equally impressive. The largely instrumental bridge in “The Draw” and the half minute guitar solo at the end of “Four Walls (The Ballad of Perry Smith)” brought Bastille together as a cohesive unit.
Bastille’s recent single, “Blame,” showed off their brilliant vocal harmonies. The a cappella bridge featured a call and response between Smith and keyboardist Kyle Simmons on backing vocals.
Their set design was minimal but visually appealing, with most images projected on the jumbotron behind the stage. “Glory” was the most impressive, featuring behind-the-scenes footage of three parkour dancers climbing a skyscraper for the album cover of Wild World.
Bastille went out of their way to personalize each date of their worldwide arena tour. They polled Boston fans on Twitter to choose an extra song they would perform live. Fans settled on “Oil on Water,” a little-known ballad from their sophomore album.
They finished the night with a three-song encore. Smith and guitarist Will Farquarson performed “Two Evils,” a gorgeous ballad from Wild World, while standing on the arena balcony.
They returned to the stage for “Icarus,” a fan-favorite single off their debut album Bad Blood.
Unsurprisingly, Bastille closed with “Pompeii,” the chart-topping, Grammy-nominated single that launched them to international fame in 2013. They brought opener Mondo Cozmo onstage to bang on some tom-toms, providing an energetic conclusion to their nearly perfect arena performance.