Live Reviews

LIVE REVIEW: Bastille, Olivia Dean, Powderham Castle, 02/07/2023

Photo Credit: Jack Delve

Released in 2013, Bad Blood was the debut album that propelled the London based pop-rock outfit Bastille to household name status almost worldwide but especially in the UK after the album went to number one. Ten years and three more albums later, the band went on the road to celebrate the record’s anniversary. On the 2nd of July, we went down to Powderham Castle in Devon to see the fourth date of their tour entitled Bad Blood X.

Opting to have a different lineup of support acts for almost every show instead of having the same band for every concert, Olivia Dean was the main support for this date of the tour and she took to the stage just as golden hour was setting in on the picturesque landscape. Releasing her debut album Messy just a few days before, this was one of the first times she performed tracks from the album post-release. A combination of soul and a grooving mix of piano, bass and drum does seem like an odd choice for the support for what many would consider an alternative-rock band. It did seem however, that the fanbase did overlap considerably with a good slice of the crowd, mainly towards the front, showing everybody that they were fans of Dean.

Despite being relatively new to the mainstream music scene, the singer-songwriter is fully aware of the fact that not everyone will either know of her or be familiar with her music. An aspect of her support slot that we did thoroughly appreciate is the lengths she went to introduce the title and background of each song to the Exeter audience which many other acts in similar positions just don’t do. Even though many of the stories that Dean spoke about that inspired the songs did feel familiar and reminiscent of tracks from other songwriters, she did manage to bring a unique personality to the stage and a sense of memorability, brought out in part by her iconic banana shaker and the way she looked like she was genuinely enjoying herself playing her music. 8/10

A short film of archive tour footage preceded Bastille’s arrival on stage. Clips shot from all over the world with the intro of Pompeii gradually eased the crowd into the full performance of the album that took the UK by storm when it was released. The band did not waste any time as they got straight into the music after walking out on stage. Straight away, frontman Dan Smith got into his energetic self as he must have ran and danced over the whole surface area of the stage. The band extended the opening track as Smith went down into the pit to see some fans holding up signs with arguably the most memorable section of the song: eh eh oh, eh oh. Despite probably playing Pompeii, Things We Lost In The Fire and Bad Blood at almost every performance since their releases, the sections that seem like they are built for a call and response live seemed less than organised as when Smith held his microphone out to the crowd to get them to sing along, the audience was overshadowed by the backing vocals of the other band mates.

Energy amongst the crowd was already high but was taken to another level when the frontman jumped into the crowd and started walking through it to get to the soundstage to greet and fist bump a couple of children. Not only creating a big story for them but also making a memorable moment for everybody that he walked past and interacted with on the way through the crowd. The full performance of their debut album was the first ‘act’ of their performance however they did choose to close the half with Weight Of Living Pt. I which was a track only on the deluxe version of the album. In our opinion, this was a great addition to the setlist as it rounded off the performance of the album and almost made it cyclical.

The second half of the concert was a quick ride throughout the band’s discography with only a couple of exceptions. A reasonably standard performance of Good Grief opened, but was immediately contrasted by an even heavier version of WHAT YOU GONNA DO??? (a song that is already an outlier in the Bastille’s catalogue.) Surprisingly, the band took on TLC’s No Scrubs with the crowd taking the vocal lead. This definitely gave the band a good feeling going into the last few songs on the setlist, showing them that everybody was ready to sing and dance. A superb run of songs to close the night came next as the night came to a close. Marshmello’s Happier, Million Pieces and Of the Night were full of audience interaction with Smith telling the crowd to get low and then jump. Much of the crowd started to leave the penultimate song as the frontman started to introduce the final song. It was evident that much of the crowd were sadly only there for the more mainstream tracks. We do think that this loss in audience could have been avoided with a simple change in the setlist if they definitely wanted to keep Shut Off the Lights in.

Although Bastille have had countless hits that resonate among the British public and certainly know how to put on a great gig, it was clear that Dan Smith’s vocals were taking heavy strain as we could tell that it wasn’t the same as when they first went on stage. A more worrying fact is that this was only the fourth date of their tour and if voices are already starting to be lost, what are the future concerts going to be like? Perhaps Smith’s vocals tend to heal quickly but whatever happens, we are sure that the crowds will be able to help no matter where they are in their tour. 7/10

Photos And Review By Jack Delve