GIG REVIEW: Bastille, Rationale and Leah Dou @ Nottingham Arena!

I’m not a massive fan of arena concerts – when I was younger the singers I liked all performed at huge arenas, but now I prefer seeing my favourite bands in cosier settings. You may not have all the grand staging at smaller venues, but you feel an intimacy and closeness with a band you get nowhere else! Bastille have been a favourite of mine for the last four years and their arena tour for Wild World coincided with my birthday, so I looked past the show being at an arena this time rather than Nottingham’s smaller venue Rock City and went!

At all the previous arena concerts I’ve been to I’ve always opted for seating, but this time I decided to give standing a go; two hours and one achy back later from queuing, I was fortunate enough to end up three rows away from the barrier. Saying that, usefully there were three screens near the stage, so fans could still see all of the action even if they had seats or a position towards the back of standing.

The Supports

Support acts tend to have a similar sound to the band they are supporting – I thought Bastille’s two supports were certainly quite a world away from their sound! First up was Leah Dou; she is a Chinese singer songwriter who is just nineteen years of age; to stand up and perform in front of thousands of people in a dauntingly large arena deserves credit itself! At the beginning of her set there may have been a handful of sound issues as I struggled to hear the crispness of her lyrics, but beyond this issue I really enjoyed the rest of her set.

You can check out Leah Dou’s music here!

Inbetween support acts, Bastille had this innovative concept of following the backstage antics of the news reader who introduced acts in bulletins for their channel Wild World Communications. It can get boring at points waiting and waiting for the music to begin, but watching the new reader, who eagle eyed fans would have recognised as the actor from their video for Fake It, read through scripts and react horribly to his assistants (who were actually members of Bastille!) was thoroughly entertaining.

Bastille’s second support, Rationale, is personally championed by the band, after his feature on Bastille’s 2014 mixtape Other People’s Heartache Pt3. Once performing under the guise Tinashé, the Zimbabwe British-born singer relaunched his career a couple of years ago and has since released an EP, as well as being asked to join Bastille on their UK string of the Wild World tour. I was blown away by Rationale; smooth songs and slick dance moves made him very memorable. The crowd were totally fixated by Rationale and the people around me exclaimed that they’d definitely check out more of his material on Spotify after his performance.

You can check out Rationale’s music here!


Quality of Vocals

Dan Smith, who is the lead vocalist of Bastille, has the voice of an angel – if you have ever checked out a Live Lounge or acosutic performance from the group, you will know what I mean. His voice controlled the zeal of the more energetic songs on the set list, but Dan could also do a complete role-reversal and alternative between power and delicacy on the band’s emotional and heart-wrenching songs. For instance, Dan’s vocals on Oblivion blew me away with both the passion and emotion he placed into every word, and his vocal capacity to hit the highest notes of the song. His vocals were strong and robust all the wya through the band’s 90 minutr set, and hit all corners of the sold out arena.

Instruments and Energy of the Set

Bastille of course is not just Dan Smith; although in 2010 the band initially started life as a solo project, it quickly expanded to emcompass Kyle Simmons on a range of instruments includng bass and piano, Will Farquarson on guitar and keyboard, Chris ‘Woody’ Wood on drums and percussion, and joined on tour by Charlie Barnes on guitar, piano, keyboards, synthesizers, backing vocals, percussion and bass. Dan also contributes to instrumental duties, as he is a skilled piano and keyboard player. I was impressed by the dynamic of the instrument playing, and Dan, Kyle, Will, Woody and Charlie interacted with one another, rather than hiding behind the comfort of their instruments. The addition of instruments you may not expect to hear at an indie-pop concert, such as strings and trumpets, fitted into place when providing the showstealer solo moments in a handful of their songs. Arena gigs can fall flat very quickly if there isn’t enough energy to pump up the crowd and keep them moving; thankfully Bastille put in an extremely animated performance!



Interaction with the Crowd

During the performance the band used the screens to their advantage, portaying the visual meanings behind their lyrics – for example, as they performed Bad Blood scenes from their original music video played, and the newsreader from the pre-concert montages was back lipsyncing the lyrics for Fake It. I transformed into a kid again halfway through the concert when I realised light up balloons being passed around the standing crowd, and I was determined to touch one of the balloons at some point, and this only fueled my excitement at the concert further! All the members smiled and waved at the crowd during the concert, and Dan at one stage jumped into the crowd during Flaws and I heard that he was mobbed by a group of girls, so that may not have been his wisest idea in hindsight!

The Set Itself

Bastille have a considerable amount of songs they can perform as they wish – they have released three parts of their Other People’s Heartache  concept and experimental mixtapes, as well as two official albums Bad Blood and Wild World. They stayed faithful to Bad Blood and played several songs from the album which included Pompeii for their magnificent finale, and were joined by earlier crowdpleaser Rationale too! Bastille also played material from Wild World and as an extra performed their top five hit Of the Night. The full set list from their performance at Nottingham Arena is below:

  1. (With Dan In Crowd)
  2. The Bad News
  3. The Room
  4. (Dan Singing From Mixing Desk)
  5. Campaign Trail
  6. Encore

  7. Cartography
  8. (Dan & Will On Balcony)

All in all, Bastille’s venture into arena gigs has been a triumpth for the lads! The visuals and zest together made the band’s show a real specticle for their fans, and I would not hesitate to see them again, whether it is at a smaller or larger venue.


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