It’s not every day that a chart-topping band announces a unique and intimate tour covering venues and cities ‘off the beaten track’, but in May of this year, that’s exactly what Dan Smith, Kyle Simmons, Will Farquarson and Chris ‘Woody’ Wood (plus touring member Charlie Barnes) decided to do. It’s no secret to anyone that I am a huge Bastille fan, and so when I discovered that they would be coming to the Lincolnshire coastal town of Grimsby just an hour away from me, I was elated. The tour announcement described the small gigs as “parties” and promised an opening DJ set, with the band then playing their highly anticipated third album, Doom Days, from start to finish. The album follows the story of a crazed house party in the midst of the apocalypse occurring outside, from the night heating up in ‘Quarter Past Midnight’, to waking up on the kitchen floor at 8AM with ‘Joy’. This tour was set to give fans a chance to recreate this timeline and experience the atmosphere that the album intended to evoke.
It came as no surprise that Ticketmaster saw the 2000 capacity venue sell out within minutes, and the enthusiasm from lucky fans who managed to snag a ticket arrived in abundance on show day; some had been queuing since 9AM to secure a coveted front-row spot, and by the time doors were opened, a huge crowd had snaked its way around the Auditorium’s doors and out onto the street in front. It was apparent from the disbelief of venue staff exclaiming that they had “never seen anything like it,” that the town was not at all used to a gig of this magnitude, and that shock and buzz of excitement had already set the scene for the Club Night perfectly, giving gig/party-goers the sense that they really could own the night… It was a true party from the start, fans dancing along to a carefully selected playlist of 70s, 80s and 90s club classics, dousing themselves in glitter, neon paint and presenting their carefully crafted signs. Excited chatter soon turned into a wave of cheers and screams as Bastille took to the stage, jumping straight in with the building energy of ‘Quarter Past Midnight’, Smith darting back and forth and performing his signature leaps from a spinning platform.
The quintet paced their way through the track list of Doom Days, keeping the energy going with the punchy ‘Bad Decisions’, which makes a point of making no apology for the chaos that will ensue (“take a bow, for the bad decisions that we made”). Then swiftly onto the fuzzy intoxication evoked by ‘The Waves’, with it’s repetitive, rhythmic and swaying verses. Notably, in the fourth song on the set list, ‘Divide’, the tone of the evening took a shift from that of drunken escape to a slow and slightly somber three minutes of the band’s instantly recognisable harmonies and a sea of waving phone lights to take a more ‘extrospective’ look at the narrative. Something that Bastille have always famously done well through the mediums of their lyrics, music videos and live shows is making a point, which is often politically-charged. ‘Divide’ halts the party with a slightly more sobering hint at what may be going on ‘outside’ and rhetorically poses the question “why would we divide, when we could come together?” A possible reference to Brexit and other political divides that Smith avidly speaks against, and the metaphor for the aforementioned ‘apocalypse’ that occurs parallel to the narrative of the album. Very fittingly, by this point in the show, Smith had stripped down to a t shirt with ‘JUST VOTE’ emblazoned across it: acting as a very Bastille-esque subtle but constant nod to current affairs amidst our escape from the outside world.
Having played through the course of Doom Days, the band left the stage to rapturous applause and the crowd were met with a short interval, after which the ‘main band’ were set to take the stage: Chaos Planet. Staying true to their word about what the tour would involve, this was another nod to their 2016 album, Wild World, where a gig for an unknown band under the aforementioned alias was advertised at a small venue in Shoreditch on Bastille’s social media. It later transpired that this band was Bastille themselves, and the name was a “clever play on the album title of Wild World” to quote drummer, Woody. A nostalgic ‘inside joke’ for many long-time fans, this really added to the intimacy of the tour, and even seemed to get many fans talking to those who were less familiar with the reference.
Excitement built rapidly for the second half of the set, and soon, the lights went down and ‘Chaos Planet’ leapt onto the stage in uniforms of tye-dye shirts, brightly-coloured hair and neon face paint. This set saw the band play ‘covers’ of a variety of Bastille’s discography, beginning with an altered rendition of their ‘I Can’t Fight This Feeling’ cover that had recently stormed everyone’s televisions on the famous John Lewis Christmas advertisement. Another rare treat for ‘hardcore’ fans, the band played through some older songs from the archives such as ‘These Streets’ and ‘Hangin’, which received a brilliant reception from both those familiar and unfamiliar with these numbers. As was also promised in the tour announcements, the band played a new song entitled ‘Admit Defeat’ – a bold number with Bastille’s signature catchy hooks, and a bold brass/horn riff. A true testament to Bastille’s ability to really sell a song live, many die-hard fans were already pelting out the words by heart, and the upbeat tempo proved popular with those listening for the first time as they exuded just as much enthusiasm. The set finished off strong with a winning trio of the chart-topping ‘Happier’, ‘Of The Night’ (where the 2000-strong crowd all seemed happy to “get down” with Smith, pogoing along in unison to the chorus) and ‘Pompeii’.
All in all, having been fortunate enough to see Bastille play live before and hear what the promotion for the tour promised to offer, I had high expectations walking into Grimsby Auditorium. But I could never have anticipated being blown away quite as much as I was; every detail on the Doom Days Club Nights Tour seemed to have been thought about down to the smallest intricacy. In true Bastille fashion, it presented gig-goers with a sense of liberation and escapism that many yearn for when attending a show, but still managed to hint back to previous records and show the band’s political stance at a very uncertain and tempestuous time in the country. This unique run of intimate shows seemed to be the perfect way for Bastille to end their Doom Days era in the UK and go out with a bang… Until next time.
Review and photography by Chloe Addlesee