For their first show of their previous tour in the U.S., England’s much hyped Bastille arrived in San Francisco with vocalist-band leader Dan Smith suffering with the flu. An in-store performance at Amoeba Records was cancelled so Smith could save his voice for that night’s show at Popscene.
It didn’t help. Smith’s voice cracked two songs in, and the apologies began, before and after each song of an abbreviated set. While he didn’t sound bad, he appeared tired and in pain, and his band mates surrounded him, as if protecting him from germs floating around Rickshaw Stop. Or, as Smith recalled at Thursday’s sold-out show at the Great American Music Hall:
“It was our first tour show in America. It was the worst show we ever played.”
Thursday’s show differed from Bastille’s first in San Francisco not so much by how Smith and his bandmates sounded – sure, he had more range into his higher register, but he really didn’t sound that bad even when sick – but in how loose he and his band appeared. Smith took more risks – singing higher, climbing the fringes of the stage to shake the hands of those in the balcony, coming down onto the main floor to dance, the microphone chord trailing over peoples’ heads, such as he did for “Flaws,” toward the end of the main set.
One early highlight came on “Overjoyed,” where Smith and his band – Chris Wood, Kyle Simmons and Will Farquarson – lined the front of the stage. While Smith led the song from the keyboard, the others added electronic percussion and a perfectly timed shaker to keep the beat. But generally, the band was at their flashiest, with Smith free to move around the stage and interact with the highly excited crowd.
The two opening acts, Nightmare and the Cat and Little Daylight, provided a contrast in the current directions of indie pop. The former, a Los Angeles quintet on its first tour, was a fresh-faced bunch that looked almost too young to be playing ‘70s-influenced glam and psych rock. But then you learn that vocalist Django Stewart and guitarist Sam Stewart are the sons of Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, and suddenly it all makes sense.
The latter, Brooklyn synth pop four-piece Little Daylight, is led by Nikki Taylor, whose vocals range from pixie to ethereal, with a bit of rock in the vein of Metric’s Emily Haines thrown in.