Bastille & Billy Bragg
Streets Of London
Union Chapel’s name was incredibly poignant as Bastille gave our youth a much needed voice in a politically charged and emotional performance.
I’m used to writing live reviews with a full focus on the music placed in front of me, Monday night was so much more than that however, This is not the first Streets Of London charity night I’ve attended but it’s definitely the most poignant and affecting it has ever been, this is unfortunately down to the world we currently live in, the majority of the crowd tonight are youngsters governed by a party they either couldn’t vote for or didn’t want and that was immediately apparent
No one echoes this sentiment more than the opening act Billy Bragg, he’s known for his powerful political statements and tonight is no different with songs defiantly mocking the likes of Donald Trump, Theresa May and all of what they represent, one such song was a brilliant rework of the Bob Dylan classic “The Times Are Changing”. Bastille also addressed the political unrest early on as frontman Dan Smith declaring third song ‘The Currents’ as a ‘massive f**k you to Theresa May, Donald Trump and Nigel Farage also saying “theres enough bulls**t in life without those adding to it”.
Streets Of London is a charity aimed at providing care and support for London’s homeless, they do this through a variety of ways and I can’t emphasise how good of a job they do, the work they do in getting people off the streets is truly incredible. the charity itself is named after an old folk song of the same name, Billy Bragg gave everyone a surprise when he brought out it’s artist Ralph McTell, a true folk legend of the 60’s for a superb rendition of the track, an iconic live moment.
When it came to the main set of the evening the audience were in for a treat, It’s rare for a band that have grown to Arena and Festival headliner level such as Bastille to play such intimate venues, tonight however was a special occasion and Bastille made sure to adapt accordingly. If you’ve read my review of their headline set at Festival No.6 last year then you know to expect an epic and brilliant performance, tonight was that and so much more.
It felt so right that in the surroundings of a chapel that Bastille would decide to strip it right back, their live set up was truly unique for this gig, the main band were set up as usual however they were now joined by a string ensemble, a fully fledged brass section and the main centrepiece itself a gospel backing choir, throughout all this Dan was acting as lead singer/conductor to all the pieces surrounding him.
The hardcore fans are hooked to Dan’s every word, when he makes references to his own passions such as Twin Peaks the whole crowd cheer, when he makes a joke or interacts with audience members they laugh, he’s become an unusual icon, this is surely down to his relatable, honest and kind personality which really shines through tonight.
If you kept an eye on social media leading up to the performance then you’d know that Dan has been heavily advertising tonight as something special, different renditions of favourites alongside one-off live performances of rarities, that’s exactly what the crowd got with a tremendous setlist, an ominous and moody version of Pompeii opened proceedings, it sounded completely unfamiliar but none the less grandiose
Suddenly horns echoed throughout the chapel as the opening to ‘Send Them Off!’ blared out, it was an early indication of just how powerful the three components of brass, strings and choir can be when placed together in perfect harmony, all propelled toward you by Dan’s fantastic voice, It really can’t be understated just how powerful his vocal range is.
Old live favourites such as ‘Laura Palmer’ managed to feel fresh and new with the unique set up and arrangements, even older mix tape songs such as ‘bad_news’ were completely new (so to speak) as it got it’s first live performance, a truly emotional moment showcasing Dan’s higher reaches of the vocal spectrum, it’s a terrific song, made all the more special by the originals instrumentals replaced a-cappella style by the choir.
‘Warmth’ has really stuck with me since the performance, it’s lyrical contents are really fitting considering the awful Manchester tragedy (which happened later that very same evening), despite all of that, it was in the moment that the song really grabbed me, it’s a beautiful track which that night felt truly emotional with the various ensembles coming all together harmoniously which managed to draw tears from my eyes.
That’s not to say the band couldn’t bring out truly loud arena style reactions from the respectful crowd, both ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’ and ‘Good Grief’ brought out feverous reactions from the pews, it was really something to behold when the crowd’s claps echoed the chapel walls during Griefs late breakdown.
The end of the set brought out two really special moments, ‘Fake It’ has always been a personal standout for me from their second album, tonight the band took it to another level, it was the tracks epic climax which truly wowed me, as everyone on that stage truly gave it 110% with Dan’s voice nearly reaching breaking point, the choir was at full chorus alongside the ensembles really going full blaze, it felt like the chapel itself was shaking.
The other massive moment was the finale itself, Part 1 of ‘The Weight Of Living’ got it’s first ever live performance and the honour of closing proceedings, a bold move which unsurprisingly payed off in dividends, a proper rarity from the first album which united the whole crowd together, it shine d a light on the spirit of community that had been present throughout the evening.
The focus of the night was purely on sending a powerful message about saving our homeless, over the course of the evening and it’s three hours it really became something so much more than that, It managed to unite a young generation, as well as hopefully inspiring them to vote for whatever they believe in when the election comes around.
It also showed how strong the power of live music truly is, in the times we live in it really is important that we stand together united, tonight was an example of how beautiful that can sound, this of course would not have been possible if not for the tremendous performance Bastille and friends put on.
Send Them Off
Things We Lost In The Fire
Weight Of Living (Part One)