It was a rare sight in front of the Tractor Tavern in Old Ballard Saturday night. People were lined up 50 deep half an hour before the doors opened and a few hopeful fans held signs pleading for extra tickets to see Bastille, an atmospheric pop band from London. Apparently one ticket went to a desperate fan for $150.
Those who made it into the sold out show were lucky indeed. Bastille, riding momentum from their debut album “Bad Blood” (which reached No. 1 in the UK and No. 11 on the US Billboard 200), was on fire Saturday and had the venerable venue rocking all night long after a tight warm-up from Los Angeles-based Nightmare and the Cat.
Bastille started out with their single “Bad Blood,” which became a rolling, bass-heavy bit of menacing pop perfection and got the crowd champing at the bit. Another single, “Things We Lost In The Fire,” got a similar makeover, with frontman Dan Smith pounding on a pair of floor toms to punctuate the chorus.
The band got its start as Smith’s solo project, just music created on a laptop for fun. The album reflects that kind of careful production, but on their first world tour, the band is pulling out all the stops. Smith promised that they would be “rougher” live, but what he really meant was that they wouldn’t sound as restrained as the album does.
Whether it was on “Laura Palmer,” which had an intro that evoked a Radiohead song circa 1997, or the exuberant dance-pop of “Weight of Living, Pt. II,” Bastille seemed intent on leaving everything on the stage.
When they hit their 12th song, “Flaws,” Smith dug deeper into the rock star toolkit and threaded his way into the crowd before singing part of the song from atop the Tractor bar. Was it a bit of an affection? Sure. But boy, did it work.
A trio of songs comprised Bastille’s encore, finished off with the irresistible syrupy pop hooks of “Pompeii,” which got the place rocking one last time. Like the rest of the set, the band impressed with its ability to translate the sophisticated production values of its album to raucous, crowd-pleasing pop-rock music.
As the song came to a close, Smith stopped singing, the band faded out and all that was left was the sold-out crowd singing back the final lines. It was a cool little moment, but you suspect the band is collecting dozens of similar ones on this tour.
Next time these Brits visit Seattle, the moments will still be cool but they likely won’t be so little.
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails