Bastille at NRG Arena, 11/7/2014
Bastille: Too much too soon?
Photos by Jack Gorman
Bastille, Ella Eyre NRG Arena November 7, 2014
As a writer, I try and keep up with the times by brushing up on Top 40 artists as much as I can, but like anything else in life, not everything is going to stick. For me, Bastille hadn't stuck, but it's my firm belief that a band should be given the chance to convince you in a live setting before making a final assessment.
That said, things started off wonderfully thanks to their opening act, Ella Eyre. She is, without a doubt, a lit stick of dynamite just waiting to explode. Sure, Eyre is gorgeous and so much fun to watch live, but more importantly she is full of raw talent as a singer and songwriter.
Vocally, she takes after her fellow bluesy-toned English crooner, Adele. But whereas Eyre could belt out ballads left and right, her energy reads more along the lines of Katy Perry when she was back on the Warped Tour. Of course, it doesn't hurt that all of her songs are high-energy, and Eyre has the passion and guts that bands dream of when booking their touring mates.
It would have been easy to watch opener Ella Eyre for a full hour and a half.
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To be honest, I could have watched her for an hour and a half and not have been bored. However, as Eyre retired for the evening and Bastille's road crew began breaking down and setting up gear, I began to wonder once again what I was about to witness.
By the time the band took the stage around 8:45 p.m., the arena was only about three-quarters of the way full on the floor with less than half of the seats filled, but those who were in attendance seemed so enamored with the group that the size of the crowd seemed entirely irrelevant to the band.
And really, that's the way it should be.
But here's what I quickly learned while watching Bastille -- though the band consists of four talented musicians, something is severely lacking in their music.
Singer Dan Smith's voice is impressive, but the band needs something more.
For one, it becomes very clear very quickly that the group have a very grandiose approach when it comes to writing music and putting together art direction for their tour. In some ways, it's like sitting through art class and listening to someone try and explain the meaning and point behind what they've created, rather than letting the work speak for itself.
Not only is it frustrating, but also feels forced and, often times, entirely unnecessary.
Story continues on the next page.
Bastille's promising stabs at synth-pop hinted their range could be increasing.
Throughout the course of their set, I found myself intrigued at moments, but as a whole I felt that I was watching the same song performed 13 different ways. This of course isn't helped by the fact that lead singer, Dan Smith, has an insanely strong voice that needs room to stretch, but it's frustrating to hear a band whose lead vocals feel like the focal point, rather than an instrument used to shape the sound.
Still, with such a strong foundation of skill between Smith and band mates Chris Wood, William Farquarson and Kyle Simmons, it's tough not to feel the need to defend them. Because Bastille has only released one full-length album, it could be argued that they're still learning how to navigate the waters, especially when comparing their singles "Pompeii" and "Bad Blood" to one of the two new tracks they teased Friday evening.
But making excuses for a band doesn't do anybody any favors.
Instead, what I will say is that their sophomore album sounds much more promising than their debut. That is, of course, if they can find a way to write tracks that don't all feature over-the-top choir harmonies and songs built around multiple drummers, because it's never fun to feel like you're investing time and money into a one-trick pony.
Instead, Smith and company need to take a break from writing over-the-top rock ballads and mix in more of the parts that feel inspired. Given their killer attempts at synth-pop, it would be fun to hear this band strip away some of the things that seem superfluous or distracting.
That said, despite what success they have accumulated to this point, it feels that Bastille still has a little ways to go. But that's not a bad thing -- it just means there's room for improvement.
The crowd did find other ways to entertain themselves Friday, too -- making shadow puppets on the wall with their smartphones.
The Crowd: My absolute favorite thing about this concert was catching so many families enjoying the music together. For the first time, I had a hard time differentiating who took whom to the concert, because most of the parents were enjoying the show just as much as (if not more than) their kids.
Seen In the Crowd: A little girl had to "Shazam" the White Stripes in between sets. If this doesn't paint a clear picture to the median age group, I'm not sure what will. Either way, it fanned the flames of hope for future generations.
Random Notebook Dump: You know the show isn't going so good when kids are using the flashlight on their cell phones to make shadow puppets on the arena wall.
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