Pillbox

Bastille Doom Days Tour

I saw Bastille for the first time in 2017 at Xfest presented by 105.9 the X at Stage AE. As much as I had a blast during Bastille’s set at this festival (and met one of my closest friends through the concert), Bastille was the only group at the event that I actually wanted to see. So, I was thrilled to find out that they were returning to Stage AE for their first headlining appearance in Pittsburgh. It was great not enduring five hours of random other groups’ music while waiting for one of my favorite bands to take the stage. Bastille stopped in Pittsburgh on Sunday, Sept. 22, and the experience seeing them perform was even better than the first time around.

The Doom Days Tour follows the release of the band’s newest album of the same name over the summer. Although their past albums — Bad Blood and Wild World — were absolutely brilliant, I loved the maturity and cohesiveness of both theme and sound throughout the songs in their newest record.

Joywave opened the night for Bastille. Part-way through the set, Joywave’s lead singer Daniel Armbruster admitted that someone on Twitter likened him to a “used car salesman,” and although I didn’t think he was the most charismatic and felt he was hard to understand over his bandmates’ loud instruments, it was still a decent performance and they intrigued me enough to give them another shot after I got home. Listening to their 2015 album How Do You Feel Now?, there were a handful of songs I genuinely enjoyed (now that I could actually understand and appreciate their lyrics and overall sound). Notable songs include “Tongues,” “Traveling at the Speed of Light,” “Now,” and “Somebody New.” I look forward to taking on their 2017 release Content next, and whatever music they release in the coming year before their own tour in early 2020.

I can definitely understand why Bastille paired up with the band for the tour. They both have such an interesting and distinct style, but they complement each other well. In fact, the song “Destruction” in particular reminds me a lot of songs from Bastille’s second album, Wild World. Interestingly, both bands had their start in 2010. However, there is something definitely less “mainstream” about Joywave.

Neither are “mainstream” per se, but I’d say that Joywave falls further into the indie category than Bastille. For one, their utilitarian, safety vest-style shirts made quite the statement, and the photo of them in the same uniforms posing in front of a Pittsburgh ambulance that they posted on Instagram with the caption, “Thanks for calling 911 Pittsburgh. What’s your emergency?” also exhibits a strange sense of humor that falls a bit short.

Bastille, on the other hand, continues to wow me with every show I’ve been to. The concert was divided into three acts — “Act 1: Still Avoiding Tomorrow,” “Act 2: Those Nights,” and “Act 3: The Morning Doesn’t Reach Us” — and each one was as incredible to witness as the one that came before it.

Lead Dan Smith often takes a brief interlude to discuss the work, and this time, he spoke of how music is a form of escapism, but his band also has a tendency to take their music in darker directions.

The struggle between seeking an escape and facing reality is prevalent in Bastille’s work, and this conflict is seen in “Act 1: Still Avoiding Tomorrow,” both in the title and content. The last three songs in this section particularly summed up these thoughts, with Doom Days’s “The Waves” and “Bad Decisions,” and Bad Blood’s “Flaws.” There is a clear contrast between the two ideas in “The Waves.” The third and fourth lines of the song encapsulate the escapism: “We never, never give up on the lost boy life / So here we are, escaping from the world outside,” but later, they reveal the dangers of people “get[ting] carried away” and “caught up in the waves” at parties. “Bad Decisions” simultaneously accepts and rejects reality, with an emphasis on “tak[ing] a bow for the bad decisions that we made” while also continuing to “make the same mistakes / ‘Till the morning breaks” as the world possibly falls apart around us.

“Act 2: Those Nights” took a perceptibly darker turn, with the lights dimming and Smith donning a hooded jacket, casting his face in shadow with the hood up for much of this segment and into the third. Opening the act, Smith was splayed out on a rotating couch, singing the honest lyrics of “Those Nights,” a song made more powerful by the slower tempo and minimal instrumentals. The group then transitioned into performing songs like 2012’s “Bad Blood” and the album’s eponymous track “Doom Days.” In an interview with Billboard, Smith spoke of the writing process for “Doom Days,” the last song he wrote for the album, and explained that “it allowed me to look back at the record and think, if it’s an album about escapism, I needed to articulate what I needed escaping from. I wanted it to have no structure and flow like a rap, and to cram in as many references and points about life and anxieties in 2019 as I possibly could.”

Closing out the night, “Act 3: The Morning Doesn’t Reach Us” included “Another Place,” “A Million Pieces,” and the 2012 hit “Pompeii,” tied together by lyrics that expose human vulnerability and desperation for an escape from reality once more. In “Another Place,” Smith sings of flings, struggling between asking to “lie to me tonight and pretend ‘til the morning light / And imagine that you are mine” and what is really wanted, to not “make promises to me that you’re gonna break / We only ever wanted one thing from this.” In “A Million Pieces,” there is a difficulty in facing the horrors of reality, trying to push away the bad thoughts and difficult conversations that need to be had: “Leave it ‘til the morning / I don’t wanna know / Breaks my heart / Breaks my heart into / A million pieces.” With “Pompeii,” the world is crumbling as we know it, but we still cling to what once was: “But if you close your eyes / Does it almost feel like/ Nothing changed at all?”

Each aspect of the concert — whether it be the subtle costume changes, the videos playing on the screen behind the band, or the way that Smith interacts with his bandmates, the set, and the audience — adds a new layer that really elevates Bastille’s performance and shoots them to the top of the list of my favorite bands to see live. Smith continued to apologize for being sick and not being able to sing to his full potential, but I couldn’t even notice because he carries himself so well on stage. Whether he’s jumping off platforms, wandering through the crowds during a song, turning the mic out toward the audience, or merely just crossing from one side of the stage to another, he feeds off the energy from the audience and knows how to liven up a show. Bastille put on another spectacular performance at Stage AE last Sunday, and I hope they continue to include Pittsburgh on their tours because they’re a group you won’t want to miss.