Last year XS Noize had great pleasure in reviewing BRITs Week who together with O2 has brought some of the renowned acts including Ed Sheeran, alt-J and Enter Shikari who blew away the 500 capacity Tufnell Park venue, The Dome. This years’ acts included Foals, Tom Greenan and the headliners who closed BRITs Week: Bastille. Bastille offered a re-orchestration of their hits to date. Before we continue telling you how this BRITs Week headliner wowed the Palladium with a twenty-five plus ensemble in a venue far too small to cater for their demand; it is vital to remind readers why such rare, special and intimate like this are possible.
BRITs Week exists to help the charity War Child fulfil their ongoing mission is to “protect, educate and stand up for the rights of children caught up in war”. War Child’s main activities involve counselling, repairing schools and finding much-needed alternatives for children to armed groups. Rakiyah from Sri Lanka who herself was caught up in conflict spoke about her experiences and how her cousin Shanka was forced to join an armed group.
Bastille was supported by Swedish dance/electronic solo artist Winona Oak. Her performance made her stand out from many in her musical genre as she solely used an organic drum kit which opened the path for innovation as opposed to inhibiting it. When Dan Smith with Bastille and the twenty-plus orchestra entered the stage; a parallel could be made between Smith and Oak: both had dyed their usually darker hair colour too much lighter colours with Dan being blond and Winona shining with silver.
Smith was energised by both the excitement of this sold-out intimate gig and that this gig alone at that point had already raised £150,000 for War Child. Opening with the title track of their latest LP Doom Days; the brilliance and imaginative reinterpretation of the signature Bastille sound was instant by conductor Johnny Abraham who had rearranged the Bastille back catalogue from scratch. Abraham had harmoniously collided the organic sound of the orchestra with the synth drums and keys.
On tracks like “Weight of Living, Pt. II” the Bastille sound was present but mixed with the early Mumford and Sons folk aspects. “Send Them Off!” and “Things We Lost in the Fire” were injected with an added intensity with trumpets and an urgency found on Tom Grennan tracks like “Found What I’ve Been Looking For”. Musical inspirations were far and wide and not constricted to the realms of classical music. “Quarter Past Midnight” trumpets and brass sections brought Beirut’s world music feel to the Palladium.
As well as playing Craig David’s “I Know You” where Bastille featured; some of the most reimagined songs were Bastille’s biggest. “Pompeii” was stripped of the “Day O, Day O” background harmonies in favour of the purity of the gospel choir to breathe new spiritual reinterpretation of this 2013 classic. The poignancy of the lyrics “Does it almost feel like nothing changed at all” brought home the need for awareness and the importance behind BRITs Week. Similarly “Blame” was given a military march Les Misérables soundtrack makeover mixed with the inner power energy of “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman. This energy and sound was repeated as Bastille played out with “Good Grief”. As far as the audience was concerned Abraham had made Bastille (now in their tenth year) sound newer, innovative and more exciting than they have ever been.
Whenever an artist’s sound gets well received by the public either the artist or inspired acts will want to reinterpret that sound. The number of mind-blowing afro beat renditions of the Arctic Monkeys and Oasis is a testament to this. Equally the desire to bring the orchestra on stage with the live act is being explored. Rod Stewart has recently performed live and made a new album with the London Symphony Orchestra. Whatever the reasons behind these new ways of delivering live music; live music always sounds better when it is in aid of a worthwhile cause. BRITs Week and Bastille’s playout performance teaches us all one important life lesson: Don’t underestimate the power of live music to help and heal.
To find out more and to make a donation to War Child, please visit https://www.warchild.org.uk/donate