Bastille at The Hospital Club live review

'Bastille have the summer, if not the year, in the bag'

Bastille at The Hospital Club live review

Photographer: Virtual FestivalsChris Eustace on 15 April 2020

Down deep in The Hospital Club’s basement, the Barclaycard Mercury Prize Sessions are aptly serving up two acts likely to be on its shortlist later this year. With a number one debut album and a reputation even now as festival vets, Bastille will probably be among the favourites to win it, while Laura Mvula’s top 10 nu-soul debut will also be much-fancied.

Introduced by the compere as having “supermodel good looks and a degree in music”, it soon becomes clear that anyone who lazily pegged Mvula as this year’s Emeli Sande hadn’t been actually listening to her.

Why do I always have heels I can’t walk in?!” she laments as she begins her set - luckily, she’s sat at the keys for a lush ‘Let Me Fall’, as a backing band complete with strings, trumpet and even a harp sweep along around her. As she stands for ‘Fly Without You’, a kick where it hurts for an ex-boyfriend (“He didn’t think I had supermodel good looks,” she smiles ruefully) complete with New Orleans trumpet solo, wondering whether “my mother would approve of the length of this skirt”, there’s obvious hints of the girl-group soul template that’s been doing the rounds of late, and like Sande, she has a striking look, but there’s a maverick attitude and a plenty of different influences on show here.

Mvula’s love of choral music is revealed in the metronomic ‘Like The Morning Dew’, while album title track ‘Sing To The Moon’ starts sparse, with the hints of strings gradually ramping up to end with a celebratory flourish.

It’s on ‘She’ where Mvula’s voice really gets its chance to shine, with chimes and low-key harmonies providing the perfect bed for her perfectly judged vocal, dominant without being too forceful. As marching drums topple in mid-way through, it’s quite something.

There’s audience participation on ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’, with everyone in the building answering in the affirmative, before everyone claps along to the propulsive single ‘Green Garden’. ‘That’s Alright’ closes things out - it’s a defiant paean to feeling comfortable in your own skin (“I will never be what you want, and that’s alright”), and, once she raises those pesky heels triumphantly at the end, it looks like Laura Mvula truly is.

Jumping onto the monitors as Bastille open with the reggae-fied bop of ‘Bad Blood’, it appears mainman Dan Smith is getting the hang of this pop star lark. He’d best do, as it looks like they’ll be taking up residence in both charts for the rest of the year. The solid touring and festival opening slots of the last couple of years are paying off handsomely, and as the queue snakes round The Hospital Club before doors, there’s a gathering of clearly ticketless fans waiting around in hope too.

Whether they got in to witness their big-haired hero add a bit of jumpy urgency to the moody, 80’s- tinged ’Things We Lost In The Fire’ and the glitchy piano balladry of ‘Overjoyed’ we don’t know. What we can say is there’s no real surprise these songs have struck a chord with people - Smith has an undeniable knack with a chorus. There’s a memorable hook embedded in each and every number they do tonight, and even the awkward stage patter (“We’re going to play some songs from our album.. and I’ll shut up!”) ends up coming across as endearing, damn it.

In other hands, many of the songs from ‘Bad Blood’ would be another straight run down the Coldplay or Keane route, but Smith and co. have ensured they distinguish themselves with an undercurrent of (very) light, dubsteppy electro, and a few quirky asides, with ‘These Streets’ going all indie-calypso-pop, while ‘Oblivion’ comes off like Xenomania accepting the challenge to write James Blake a Christmas Number One.

A rumbling ‘Icarus’ sees a pogoing Smith seemingly attempt to fly  as high as the song’s doomed protagonist, before he gets to duet with a modulated version of himself on the walking-back-after-a-heavy-one ruminations of ‘Get Home’. 

The three biggest hitters are saved ‘til near the end: there’s the dramatic ‘Laura Palmer’, coming back around again as the next single, more Bond theme than Twin Peaks, the supremely bouncy sugar-sweet fun of ‘Flaws’, and then, with everyone here grinning like a loon, the singalong smash of the moment. You know how it goes, everyone does. ‘Pompeii’ is even getting its authors in free to museum exhibitions now, while, on this evidence, wearing its’ blanket radio play very well indeed.

As Bastille troop off, still seemingly in disbelief at how loved they are right now, the summer, if not the year, is pretty much in the bag for them.


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