Up close at the “quietest gig we’ll ever do...”

MTV UnPlugged sessions are iconic. You don’t need us to tell you that. Last month, Bastille took to London’s Porchester Hall to record an intimate one-off show for MTV UnPlugged. With the help of their touring member and frequent collaborator, Charlie Barnes. Bastille put together songs that surprised, as well as immensely pleased, their fans.

Bastille’s latest album ‘Give Me The Future’ is very futuristic (as the title suggests) and electronic - everything this show was not. Set in what is usually a wedding venue, with chandeliers overhead, the stripped back, intimate nature of the show is seriously chilled. Frontman Dan Smith jokes that this is the “quietest gig we’ll ever do”.

Dan Smith tells the audience that he is nervous, but it doesn’t come across at all as Bastille open with recent single ‘Survivin’’. This is one of the rare occasions that Dan plays the guitar on stage. The four-piece play delicate, acoustic versions of their well-known songs. There’s a piano rendition of the otherwise euphoric ‘Quarter Past Midnight’ from their last album, ‘Doom Days’. Their version of ‘Blame’ features a saxophone and the lyrics “Fall upon your knees, sing / This is my body and soul here"” sound haunting.

And if Dan Smith playing the guitar is rare, just wait until you see bass player Will Farquarson artfully strum an oud during ‘Daniel In The Den’! It just shows how versatile the band are and how willing they are to take risks and explore; creatively.  

In contrast to ‘Daniel In The Den,’ ‘Bad Decisions’ (also from the ‘Doom Days’ album) is upbeat. Then come the covers. The first is a nod to Nirvana’s legendary MTV UnPlugged session from November 1993. Want to know which song they cover? It’s ‘Come As You Are’! And it’s good! Seriously good!

Next, they play ‘Give Me the Future’ - the title track of their upcoming fourth studio album. It’s uplifting and gives a taste of what to expect from the new era of Bastille music. - In contrast, ‘Laughter Lines’ sounds mellower than ever, especially with the lyrics “‘I’ll see you in the future / When we're older / And we are full of stories / To be told”. ‘Fake It’ is always a great song to see live but this time it is so emotional, we have to fight back the tears. Another tear-jerker moment comes in the form of a ‘Killing Me Softly’ cover' and we try to keep it together as Dan’s vocals soar.

‘Hope For the Future’, which appears on the soundtrack for the Leonardo Dicaprio-produced ‘From Devil’s Breath’ docu short (about climate change) is a song they’ve never played live before. Then it all gets a little bit silly. Bastille play ‘Happier’ but it’s a country ‘yee-haw’ version. Dan jokes that it’s the only version of ‘Happier’ their manager has ever approved of. It was definitely a highlight of the evening!

The show was exceptional and drummer Woody later posted on his social media: “”Loved every second of MTV Unplugged and my word Charlie Barnes is a musical genius isn't he!!!???” Dan Smith also shared the post.

Charlie put a lot of hard work into changing up Bastille’s songs and what it meant in terms of the performance was that it was like nothing Bastille fans had ever seen before. Things that don’t sound like they would work on paper sounded amazing and were great fun. It was a special night to be a part of, but also because it was a proud moment for the Bastille lads.

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Words: Narzra Ahmed

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