Concert Review: Bastille at the Ulster Hall (26/10/13)

BY LIAM CASSIDY 

Bastille’s success story has been an accelerated one. From mid 2012 they have gained steady momentum, increased media coverage and have built up a firm fan base. With the 2013 number one album ‘Bad Blood’ now under their belt, Bastille seem determined to drive on with relentless touring and a planned double sided re-release of their hit album entitled ‘All This Bad Blood.’

Support slots on the night were filled skilfully by local bands Southern and Runaway GO who rose well to the challenge of a large Ulster Hall crowd. With cutting guitar tones, relentless rhythms and complimentary harmonies between sibling vocalists, Thom and Lucy, Southern gripped the building crowd and convinced them of their serious talent. Groove based and blues inspired, they provided some raw energy to start the show.

Runaway GO were a step in another direction, owing more to pop influences but no less energetic and with a deft touch for dynamics throughout. Also fronted by male and female vocalists, Dave and Fiona, their earnestness and fun personality shone through a well-constructed set. They infused the crowd with energy enough for a sing-along, leaving plenty in the tank for the main act.

Bastille took the stage and wasted no time powering through ‘Bad Blood’ and ‘Things We Lost in the Fire’ to a rapturous audience. Seemingly enamoured by the response and the venue, lead vocalist Dan endeared to the capacity crowd by humbly mumbling, ‘Hello, we are Bastille,’ before launching into the main body of their set. They know their strengths, and they play to them. Strong points were fan favourites ‘Bad Blood’, ‘These Streets’, ‘Laura Palmer’ and ‘Icarus’, with sing-along choruses and strong harmonies. Dan carries the mantel of frontman with reasonable aplomb. High energy levels are maintained through a mix of pacing and dancing across the stage, Bastille’s vocalist understands his responsibility as the frontman to an outfit limited by their instruments.

However, between established fan favourites, a lack of depth to Bastille’s material emerges. Slower tracks off ‘Bad Blood’ fail to arrest the crowd as successfully; the changes in pace and dynamics are handled expertly, but the quality of these songs let down their more energetic counterparts. Crowd interaction is limited, but a venture through the crowd by vocalist Dan during ‘Flaws’ was a highlight; Bastille appear aware of the importance of their fans’ support, but are hindered by their own modesty and shyness.

Their willingness to incorporate new material breathes life into the set as they deftly avoid crowd apathy with promising future releases. The prominence of guitar on these tracks was also a departure and punctuated the prevalence of keys nicely, with one guitar riff which the Arctic Monkeys wouldn’t be ashamed of. If the new directions suggested by these three new songs are followed with as much attention to quality as they deserve, Bastille’s future work could eradicate any shortcomings in their current set.

The encore of the set is an undeniable high, culminating in new mash-up/cover ‘Of The Night’ followed by smash-hit ‘Pompeii’. Here, Bastille return to what they do best: up-beat electro-pop with high energy levels. By no means a perfect gig, Bastille hit the mark for a good night’s entertainment and with hard work can iron out any weaknesses and go on to become a quality live act.

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