“This is the dividing point between addressing and forgetting about everything” Bastille’s Dan Smith’s voice echoes across the crowd, carried by waves of fog and smoke, before launching into his next song. Through the night Bastille weaves a story of human emotion, of a common feeling. Of indulging in the night to forget the reality of the day. Of fantasy, escapism, and drunken nights with strangers and blaring music.
The stage is set by New York’s Joywave, standing with their eyes to the ground, as fog rolls and laps at their feet, backlit in blue light reflected against their yellow jumpers. The crowd stands with an anticipation tense in the air for a moment, till white light bursts through the stage with a strum of the bass, and the keyboardist lays down a smooth piano ballad. Daniel Armbruster treats the first song “Like a Kennedy,” gently, whispering the lyrics into the microphone he cups in his hands. A fitting start to the theme of the night, the song depicts being chased by distractions and being tired and overwhelmed by the grandiose problems of life.
Moving past the somber, intimate mood of their first song, the band jumps immediately into a high speed, synth loaded track, cut in and out by the oscillating orange light of the background. Armbruster’s presence is enchanting, through witty eccentric making a connection with the audience and keeping the crowd excited. Leading into one of their final songs he screams out “This is the greatest song ever written,” before immediately dropping into strobe lights and a rapid snare. Joywave moves melodically to the music and ends their set with a final, dramatic strum of the guitar.
The set for Bastille opens bathed in red. It leaks out, past the edges of the stage, onto the faces of the crowd, whose hands are already in the air. The lights bump, almost like a heartbeat, in time to the bass. A window appears in the backdrop, and the curtains open to reveal a city lit in an apocalyptic scene. A clock dangles in the corner, reading 12:15. As the lights dim the crowd falls silent, waiting expectantly.. The crowd roars as Dan Smith and the band walk out, and Smith immediately sits on a sofa adjacent to a tv to begin his first song. “It’s a quarter past midnight-” Smith sings out from his perch on the sofa, matching the clock hanging above his head. As the song tracks the wild start to the night, the feeling of reckless abandon, of no responsibilities, Smith jumps from the couch to stand atop a giant clock. As Smith and the crowd sing out “Like we’re trying to burn the night away,” the clock begins spinning with Smith moving with it.
As the opening song closes out Smith cries out to the crowd,”Everyone had a good week? You guys all right?” He treats the crowd tenderly, checking in on them throughout the night, matching the care and intimacy he shows through the album. He explains this before moving on, “It’s set over the course of the evening from a quarter past midnight through eighth in the morning waking up on the kitchen floor.”
Dan Smith sings for his fans and not himself “Doom Days” is an album made to capture the feeling of being wasted at 4 am, ignoring what you know you’ll have to wake up to in the morning, and simply existing in the high of the moment. It captures a human feeling, and throughout the night Smith gives his music back to the people. Almost every song he throws his microphone to the air, inviting Denver to scream their feelings back through his lyrics. This emotion, this connection between Smith and the audience drips from his words through the song “Flaws,” as Smith runs down the stairs and through the screaming crowd, dancing, and singing with his fans. He gives his microphone to one woman who echos back “I can feel it,” the emotion and excitement ringing in the air.
The band breaks from their fast paced tracks to tenderly carve out a duet between Smith and Farquarson, the band’s bassist. Farquarson gently plucks out the notes to each chord, as Smith sings atop a staircase backlit by a large red moon shining behind him. The clock has ticked further into the night, and there's a quiet understanding among the crowd of the feeling of gentle loneliness at 2 am.
The next song is received by hysterical screams from the crowd immediately upon hearing the first few chords. Bastille’s “Happier,” rings out, a ballad to the heartbroken and hopeful. Smith dances along the stage as the crowd bobs, and at the bass drop screams out “Are you ready?” and throws the mic up for the crowd take the chorus. As gold light bathes the faces of those shouting out their own emotions, the connection between the band and the audience is palpable. Bastille tells the story felt by every fan, and unites them through this common feeling. The gaps between strangers grow smaller, and together, the Denver crowd finds belonging in this space.
The lights open back up to Smith lounging on a couch.. He’s wearing a hoodie shrugged over his shoulders and head, and he’s laid back holding the microphone gently. The backing vocals of the band match his disposition, slowly and gently weaving the backdrop. The clock reads 4:01 am, matching the lyrics as he opens with “Four in the morning, we find ourselves here.” Smith sings from the couch, his head tilted back, eyes barely visible under the brim of his hoodie. His posture gives the crowd an intimate look into his emotions, and almost feels as if you are observing him think through the lyrics, through his feelings. The couch spins slowly to reveal the words “Doom Days” spray-painted in silver across the back. As “4am” closes, the world spins around Smith, as the audience bobs in mutual understanding of the bliss of the numbness the song captures.
Faded in with gentle purple lights and ambient guitar plucking, Smith takes a moment to connect with the crowd. “I’m gonna count to four, and see if you guys know what to do.” Smith counts out in time with the beat, and as the lights shift to hit the blissful entranced faces of the crowd they scream back “A million pieces.” Smith and the audience throw this ballad back and forth, before launching into the verse of the song. The crowd cheers back as the large disco ball looking over the ballroom spins, projecting rainbow pulsing lights onto the faces of those below it. Dipping into the chorus, Smith throws his hand to the air for the crowd to chant back the lines they’ve rehearsed, as Smith dances with reckless abandon. Smith circles to sing maniacally with each bandmate, the city burning in the background. Smith’s cheering, dancing, and singing with the crowd almost feels like his fight back to the melancholy feelings the album encapsulates. It’s his anthem, that through all the emotion, he will live.
Bastille closes the night with a tribute to their beginning. The chorus of ey ohs chant through the crowd, as Smith carves out the words of the hit “Pompeii”. Most memorable to the somber yet upbeat track is Smith striding across the stage to hit the drum in the bridge of the song. Smith’s rapid drum beats vibrate through the crowd, and the night ends with the audience chanting back the verses, bathed in the light shining behind Bastille, as the music fades into the night.
Bastille captures the feeling of driving fast down a highway at midnight, windows down, with your friends at your side. The feeling of being in a smoke-filled corner at a party, swirling your drink in your cup, the conversations around you lowered to a dull background hum. The feeling of drowning out your worries with bright colored lights and ear-deafening music. Smith’s words pierce through the fog separating the audience, connecting each fan through the lyrics they chant back, and the feelings bumping in their chests.