A coupe of weeks go I went to see a band play in Camden. Unfortunately, it took me while to write a review, but here it is…
Look back to a year ago and who would have thought that Bastille would be playing The Barfly on their first UK tour? In fact, look back a year ago and who had even heard of Bastille? Tonight, however, is their E.P launch and it is sold out.
It’s a cold, dreary night in the month of October. The streets of Camden are alive – or dead in this case- with partygoers dressed in variations of ghoulish creatures in the run-up to Halloween. Inside the venue, the bar is deathly quiet.
The Barnaby Keen Band are the openers of the show, and draw little attention to themselves let alone their music.
Conversations continue to grow as more pints are drunk whilst the band – who hail from Dorset – play a short, bass heavy, reggae style set that is supposedly meant to sound like a mix between “psych-folk and prog-rock”. It doesn’t. The Barnaby Keen Band play a bland four song set, that sounds as if they belong on an album of elevator music. The three members stick to the shadows in the corner of the stage, dressed in unwashed street garb that could be any busker’s wet dream.
Luckily, To Kill a King pick up the pace and are certainly eye candy for the ladies in the room. By now, Camden Barfly is slowly but surely filling up, and it seems that the night of the living dead has been left outside. From the first upbeat acoustic chord, the females dancing around handbags at the front of the room seem to be fixated on the handsome five-piece, who belt out the majority of their new E.P, ‘My Crooked Saint’. ‘Wrecking Crew’ is a stand-out, its vocals reminiscent of Elbow, its arrangement a nostalgic, guitar heavy, backing track with complementing drums. ‘Bloody Shirt’ and ‘Fictional State’ are mellow in contrast, but they certainly capture the essence of the room.
By now the booze is definitely flowing. The stage is empty. A vibrant red triangle is hanging solemnly as instruments are rearranged and removed, and before a piss can be taken, Bastille thrust headfirst into ‘Icarus’. From the opening note the crowd- who are now filling the entire space and spilling out of the door – become animated and begin to chant “Icarus is flying too close to the sun” in time with Dan Smith’s smooth vocals.
The synth-pop band from London soar through their set, landing on ‘Overjoyed’, a slow, echoing, lyrical masterpiece that is seemingly about words. The four piece stand side by side, bopping in time to the music, sharing wry smiles with each other as the crowd sing to their hearts content. ‘Pompeii’ increases the never-ending sing along as yet more alcohol is consumed. Its chorus is nostalgically taken from The Lion King. Its upbeat melody gets everybody moving, eyes transfixed onstage as Bastille smash straight into their debut single ‘Flaws’. The opening jump of a cascading synth piano, complete with perfect syncopated harmonies, creates an almost frenzied atmosphere, as Smith prances around the stage, occasionally pausing to play an occasional sustained note on his keyboard.
To top it off, the night ends with a cover of City High’s ‘What Would You Do?’, exploding in a shower of synth and heartfelt harmonies. So for a band creeping out of the unknown, Bastille has certainly emerged with a bang.