Bastille’s Arena-Size Pop-Rock Strikes a Chord at Smart Centre
By: Matthew Keever, Houston Press

In the music video for “Fake It,” the second single from 2016’s Wild World, a news anchor speaks directly into the camera with the charisma and confidence of a modern-day political pundit.

Scenes of his poise onscreen are juxtaposed with outtakes in which he sweats profusely, smokes heavily and eventually has a meltdown of Bill O’Reilly proportions. All the while, Bastille’s Dan Smith sings of pretending to be in love even though he isn’t.

The aforementioned newsman joined Bastille on tour Thursday night via multiple screens lining the back walls of Smart Financial Centre. As fans walked to their seats, he was seen onscreen, eating cookies and spilling coffee on himself. He curtly asked someone to clean up his mess, only for Bastille themselves to show up and all but wipe his chin for him.

When the band finally appeared onstage, they kicked off their set with “Send Them Off” as the anchor lip-synced along onscreen behind them. Smith sang of inner demons, holy water and exorcism, with nods to Shakespeare’s Othello woven into his lyrics.

If nothing else, Bastille’s artistry is dense.

The music was grandiose, anthemic and altogether entertaining. Fans rose to their feet when the band emerged, and remained upright for most of the evening, dancing along with Smith as he strode back and forth across the stage.

British indie-pop rockers Bastille catapulted to worldwide fame in 2013 with the release of “Pompeii,” an anthem tailor-made for stadiums that exhibited Smith’s vocal range above dance-friendly instrumentation.

Named for the ancient Roman city that met its demise when a nearby volcano erupted, it’s a surprisingly upbeat track.

Since 2013, Bastille has toured the world, released a second album and refined their sound. Gone are the folk influences and missteps from 2013’s Bad Blood. On Wild World, Bastille doubled down on stadium rock, poising themselves to give Coldplay a run for their money down the road.

On tour in support of their sophomore record, Bastille paid homage to the Bayou City by wearing NASA shirts onstage. They thanked the audience for their patience between albums since Wild World took “bloody ages to make.”

They also made time for a few pictures. During “Flaws,” Smith left the stage for the pit, making his way up the aisles and through the venue, high-fiving fans and posing for selfies as he sang of laying his shortcomings bare.

Written for the unifying and healing powers of friendships, Wild World coolly suggests listeners occasionally turn off their tellies, head to the pub and share a laugh with some mates. Its theme is that of personal relationships providing stability and a sense of calm during trying times.

Though Smith conceded that detaching oneself from current events might not be the best decision in the long run, he said it helps him get through the night when the happenings of the world get to be too much.

Fittingly, Thursday night felt like a reprieve of sorts. With all the negativity in the news, maybe a little stadium rock is what everyone in attendance Thursday night needed. And Bastille delivered as much.

Random Notebook Dump: Smart Financial Centre is really, really nice.

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