If we were to believe the Bastille stage show, we might imagine that founder Dan Smith and his cohorts were contributing something truly seismic to a convulsing world. The banks of large screens behind them were topped off by a looming construction which resembled the prow of a ship, blaring sharply-cut, hallucinatory images of fake rolling newscasts amid The Currents; a ticker on the screens off to the side quoted from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War; a woman swam in blood-red surf during Bad Blood.
Zoo TV-era U2 would have approved of this self-consciously flashy burst of zeitgeist-grabbing white noise dressed up as real narrative. When Smith – a genial, handsome guy with fantastic vocal range, dressed all in black – asked that we study the video accompanying Step It Line as it offered a “documentary” of how the new album cover was created we instead saw some beautiful shots of London from on high.
It was visual style over documentary substance, but the music was affecting, drawing in equal parts from 80s synth-pop and monolithic stadium rock in the Coldplay vein, with added strings and brass. Smith marshalled phones-aloft anthemics during Four Walls and the big closing hit Pompeii; Saturday night fun during Of the Night (a mash-up of Corona’s Rhythm of the Night and Snap’s Rhythm is a Dancer) performed at the sound desk; and high-concept acoustic balladry with Two Evils, performed from the gods.
With Fake It, mimed onscreen by an actor aping an overly sincere politician, their commentary even managed to hit the mark.