Dream Setlist: Bastille

Dream Setlist: Bastille

For this installment of the Dream Setlist segment, Harper recounts concert highlights from British group Bastille, assembling an eclectic showcase ranging from their 2013 debut to their most recent “apocalyptic party album” – which feels all too relevant despite its 2019 release.

There are certain bands to whom I feel I owe a great debt – they left a lasting  impact on my music taste, and a perpetual relevance on my playlists since my youth. There’s nothing in my mind more honest and unadulterated than the love a young teenager has for their favorite band, despite the tendency of certain individuals to write off bands with a majority teenage fanbase – especially teenage girls (I call BS! Harry Styles said it best – “Teenage-girl fans – they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there”). Bastille was that band for me.The mainstream success of “Pompeii” was my earliest incentive to do my own music discovery beyond what I heard on the radio. At sixteen, I was waiting in an hours-long line to attend my first  Firefly Music Festival for a fifteen second interaction and a signed Bad Blood CD. At seventeen, I used a fake ID for the first time to attend an intimate 18+ show just to see Dan Smith perform “Flaws” as he walked along the bar. At eighteen, I splurged on arena floor tickets for the first time when they toured the album that was the soundtrack to  my final year of high school and subsequent exodus from my hometown and all that was familiar. Just this past fall, I hopped on a five-hour train ride to catch them live in New York City – just to hop on another five-hour train ride the next day as to be back in Boston in time for class.

Since their 2019 “Doom Days” Tour, Bastille has been relatively quiet in terms of future projects. Most recently, the group launched a virtual film club called “Distraction Tactics”, focusing on a film from a different country each week and later expanding to book reviews and even NASA launch viewing parties. Until Bastille graces us with a fourth LP, here’s my nostalgia-induced curation of high-school concert memories in the form of a setlist.

1. Doom Days

The title track to Bastille’s latest “apocalyptic party album” also doubles as the first song I ever wrote about in a published piece, and is the reason I’ll continue to write about them as long as I have hands to type! A rapidly increasing momentum supersedes haunting harmonies on the track’s intro, sonically alluding to the choice to disregard blaring injustices. Grappling with subjects of escapism in the face of world-wide tragedy, it’s the perfect opener to encourage an audience to momentarily tune out the world outside and dance the night away.

2. Joy

Following a more downbeat intro, “Joy” is the spark that brings the room to life. Opening with optimistic vocal backup, this track is the perfect embodiment of celebration behind the veil of ignorance with undertones of somber lyricism. Lyrics, “As the night dissolves into this final frame / You’re a sweet relief, you saved me from my brain” accurately convey themes of liberation on “Joy”.

3. Quarter Past Midnight

Keeping the positive momentum from “Joy”, the band launches into the lead single off of Doom Days with brilliant fervor. Illustrated by  album art depicting two people running hand in hand and lyrics, “The streets are getting restless / Good times, bad decisions”, we can’t help but regress to an element of youth where we’re blissfully unaware of what tomorrow holds. 

Bastille - Quarter Past Midnight (Official Video)

4. Those Nights

This next track gives us a moment to catch our breath as Smith soberly recounts the search for meaning amidst the chaos of the world around him. No line better fits the concept of Doom Days than the line, “Aren’t we all just looking for a little bit of hope these days”, as the narrator attempts to find a sense of courage in temporary people. 

5. Way Beyond

“Way Beyond” remains one of my favorite tracks on the Wild World album because of the amusing arrogance it carries – it fills unfitting from the mouth of Smith, who has been nothing but modest throughout his years in the spotlight. It’s a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the apathy of so many when it comes to circumstances that require attentiveness, which is all too familiar in the social and political climate of today. They couldn’t possibly have foreseen that from back in 2016, could they?

6. Glory

“Friendships, relationships and memory is the ball park we’re aiming for”, Dan Smith writes on the subject of single, “Glory”. Lyrics depict the altering perspectives of two people attempting to recount old memories they experienced together, alongside a moving music video drenched in nostalgia. Visuals for its performance on the “Wild, Wild World” Tour depicted an aerial view of the New York cityscape – a stirring imagery for my 18-year-old gaze of the home I would soon be leaving behind. A few months later I was in a new city for the foreseeable future, but “Glory” remains a quintessence of the gratitude I have for my New York upbringing. 

7. Bad Blood

The namesake of the album that started it all – I’ll never get tired of hearing this one. In a dismal plea to disregard years-old resentment from a past relationship, there is an underlying tone of optimism for a future of amity. Despite its 2013 release, relevance still shines through as we search for a justification for unnecessary bitterness amid the world’s larger issues. 

Bastille - Bad Blood (Official Music Video)

8. Oblivion

On one of Bastille’s most poignant tracks we find their most extensive display of musical aptitude, as well as one of the strongest vocal performances of their discography by Smith. Lyrics, “You’re in my arms / But you’ve gone somewhere deeper” cast a chilling silence over the crowd, creating a picturesque contrast to the party scene that occurred there mere minutes before.

Bastille - Oblivion (Official Music Video)

9. What Would You Do

For about as long as Bastille has been around, so has this City High cover. Originally recorded up-tempo over a jaunty beat, Bastille’s take matches sonics to devastating lyrics and allows the track to take on an entirely new meaning. The character in Smith’s voice overlaid by haunting vocal manipulations grounds the audience following a series of lighthearted song selections. 

10. Love Lockdown

Bastille has by no means been the first band to cover the 2008 Kanye hit, but I’ve yet to come across an alternative-pop version that I haven’t loved. “Love Lockdown” is one of many examples of the new life and meaning Bastille can breathe into an older track through their own interpretation. Dan Smith’s distinctive voice complements this track so well, and who doesn’t love hearing a song that only exists in a live setting?

11. Of The Night

Originally a mashup of 90’s pop hits “The Rhythm of the Night” by Corona and “Rhythm Is a Dancer” by Snap! featured on a 2012 Bastille mixtape, this rendition has become a fan-favorite in the live setting with an electrifying rhythm that soon has the entire crowd jumping. It’s the pinnacle of the celebratory elements that makes a Bastille show so special. 

Bastille - Of The Night (Official Music Video)


12. Flaws

I don’t know what a Bastille show would be without this song maintaining its rightful place on the setlist. My earliest recollection of seeing “Flaws” performed live involved Smith fearlessly wandering into the thickest part of the crowd, hood up to protect his trademark gravity-defying hairstyle from outstretched hands. Pausing at various points to sing and dance with fans and travelling as far into the upper sections as the song duration would allow, this song is a reminder of the unity that drives this fanbase. 

Bastille - Flaws (Official Music Video)

13. Pompeii

On the “Doom Days” Tour, the stage design included a ticking clock and open window, alluding to the idea that the entire show took place on humanity’s final night on earth. From our safe vantage point in a room full of vivacious concert-goers, the conclusion of the night feels especially final. This bleakness is soon lifted by the  infectious familiarity of closing track, “Pompeii”. It’s a setlist essential, and maybe one day I’ll decide it’s overdone, but for now I revel in memories of simpler days.

Bastille - Pompeii

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