CONCERT REVIEW: Bastille’s DOOM DAYS (Part 1) Tour

Bastille brings their intense DOOM DAYS house party to Philadelphia

The dark energy of Bastille’s third studio album found a home at the Met on North Broad Street.  For the first stop on the band’s lengthy “Doom Days (Part 1)” tour, the former opera house served as fittingly opulent venue.  The $56 million renovation effort completed last year has restored the Met to a glorious event space audience members of any medium can be proud of. There isn’t a bad seat in the house because the space was initially crafted to project voices well beyond their natural reach, so you can feel confident down in the pit or up in the back of the mezzanine. Screens throughout the orchestra level make it easy for fans to see an up close view of their favorite performers, even if they don’t have the benefit of front row tickets. A dazzling chandelier glitters over the crowd and the juxtaposition of rough exposed brick against the classical golden features of the mezzanine facade are quintessentially Philly.

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A giant lighted sign announced Joywave as the opener long before they took the stage. When they did enter, it is with matching outfits, each evoking a construction worker/gym teacher hybrid, with gloriously rhinestone-studded loafers. However gimmicky their outfits may have looked, they backed up their wardrobe with an excellent set. The lighting for Joywave fluctuated effortlessly from calm and ethereal to discotheque colorful; a jumble of purples and pinks to offset their neon shirts. Joywave has been around since 2010, and they exuded confidence and charisma on stage, even as frontman Daniel Armbruster self-deprecatingly apologized to the crowd for “sucking” on this first stop of the tour.

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The acoustics of the historic Met certainly lend themselves to exuberant rock music. Joywave opened with “Like a Kennedy,” which was a great way to gently introduce themselves to an audience who is mostly waiting for Bastille. They’ve structured their set to play to this climate as well, spacing their hit songs throughout their time on stage. More popular tracks such as “It’s a Trip!” and “Tongues” played later, as Bastille fans trickled in closer to the main event.  Hopefully, this allowed the growing crowd to catch a snippet of something familiar and walk away from the performance as newly converted fans.  As Armbruster said, “Hello future Joywave fans!”  They closed with their new single “Obsession,” and teased their return to Philadelphia to headline their own tour in support of their upcoming third album.

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Without the warm glow of the bright Joywave sign, the stage felt almost foreboding between sets; an impression that fit the Doom Days theme, especially once the fog machines kick in and blood red lights flooded the stage.  The stage design included multiple platforms, a few sets of stairs, and a unique setup that set the drummer off to one side, facing across the stage rather than out toward the audience. One of the platforms boasted a vintage-looking TV set and chair, while a circular one toward center stage was eventually revealed as a spinning turntable à la Les Misérables.

Bastille took the stage to much excitement promptly at 9PM.

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As they started to play, the unique staging began to make sense.  Frontman Dan Smith made excellent use of the additional open space, weaving seamlessly between the various set pieces, including the unstable-looking platform that spins him around . During “Two Evils,” he perched atop a long stairway, serenading the audience from a spotlight before a bloody-looking moon. The design overall made economic use of the vertical and horizontal space, allowing for a visually interesting performance even during softer tunes that are not necessarily designed to play to a stadium crowd.

For “Flaws,” Smith did his best to thwart security by making his way slowly through the crowd, winding between throngs of fans standing on the ground level and up into the orchestra section. It was an excellent performance choice for a song that is raw and emotional; making each note feel personal in a way being removed from the audience on the stage cannot. Immediately after, Smith took a well-deserved break wrapped in a pink hoodie and lounging on a comfy looking couch for “Those Nights.”

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Throughout their set, a large screen set up behind the band played varied material depending on the song. At times, it was part experimental student film and part overused VHS tape, flashing between grainy blue and red lyrics for “Quarter Past Midnight” and nature footage set behind a window for “Things We Lost in the Fire.” A red countdown clock appeared on the wall of a wallpapered room between songs. Every track Bastille played is familiar to the crowd. The energy of their fellow listeners singing along pressed gently against each individual member of the audience. People at every level stood and swayed to “The Waves,” “Happier,” and the third album’s titular “Doom Days.” It was a truly audience-forward experience. Despite Joywave’s infectious energy, they cannot match the way Bastille unites 3,000+ people in a fervent chorus. (At least, not yet; maybe that will change when Joywave returns in the Spring to headline their own tour.)

Bastille is just beginning a lengthy tour.  Doom Days (Part 1) is slated to continue through the end of October, and Part 2 will pick up in 2020 after the band plays a few Club Nights in the UK for November and December. The closest shows will be in Washington, DC on September 21, Pittsburgh on September 22, and NYC on September 24. More info on the Doom Days tour can be found on the band’s website.

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