Live Review: To Kill A King & Bastille, Rock City (21/3/13)

Arriving at Nottingham’s best live music hub, Rock City, a queue of fifty or so teens formed an excitable queue as the clock struck five o’clock. Doors weren’t due to open for a good couple of hours and it was Baltic. Since unavoidable Radio 1 Airplay of late and a meteoric rise to the pinnacle of the UK album charts with the release of the anticipated début Bad Blood; Bastille have plugged a hole between pop and indie, filling indie dance-floors Nationwide with their synth pop phenomena.

Before the madness began, I was lucky enough to sit down with Bastille’s lead support act, and best friends, To Kill A King. Fronted by the Goliath-like height of Ralph Pelleymounter, To Kill A King sit excitedly in their dressing room obviously fevered for the night ahead.

Introducing themselves, Ralph describes the band as “very loud but very quiet, very lyrical and all things to all people and a LOT of harmonies” and reluctantly files the band under the “indie-folk” genre. To Kill A King recently released their first LP ‘Cannibals With Cutlery’ to much critical acclaim following ‘Word of Mouth’, the EP that brought with it a hard core of fans.

“When we started out and I was writing it was definitely about telling stories, and I think this first album that we put out is definitely trying to do that. Whether or not we continue to do that into the second album, I’m not too sure, but we definitely have tried that with this record”.

For their first EP proper, ‘Word of Mouth’, the band made the physical release fun again, sending out 1000 handmade copies to different record stores and had some brilliant responses; “to begin with you could only get the physical copy by doing something interesting and show us what you had done and we had some fantastic things. One guy hacked into the train departure boards so it read ‘’ and that was a train driver who must remain anonymous for fear of him losing his job! Someone changed the number plates on their learner driver car (might be a bit illegal!) Some people painted stones leaving them around for people to find and we had the people finding them getting in touch with us – so they said ‘Pick me up’ and then on the other side they said ‘Word of Mouth EP’. I think it was a nice way of starting to communicate with our fans and it’s always difficult working out how to do that because obviously we like the fact that they enjoy our music and we like to give something back.”

Talking about the closeness between the band and their fan base they explain how the relationship began, “We started out originally putting on Living Room Gigs, which was actually us taking ourselves to their house and performing in their living room. Actually the last time we were on tour in Germany, we tried to do things on the cheap because obviously it’s difficult to make early tours profitable these days and we asked if we could stay in fans houses. One girl in Berlin left her flat, moved in with her friend and just gave us the keys to her flat!”

This support slot with Bastille marks the band’s first since the album’s release and so I ask the band how it is to be able to play the new tracks live and how well they’d been received thus far: “Gasp, the song that we are opening with tonight, we haven’t really played live before and this is really the first tour since the album minus the guerrilla gig to launch the album. We’ve definitely seen a spike since the album has been released and the people that matter have all told us they like it so that’s good I guess”.

This support slot with Bastille is obviously special to both bands, with Dan Smith of Bastille sporting a To Kill a King t-shirt at the previous gig in Sheffield. Ralph tells me how the relationship came about: “Me and Dan were in halls together in University and then we got a house together. We  did play together a couple of times, and we have a new video which will be recorded in summer of something which actually pre-dates To Kill A King and Bastille – a cowboy project which is almost a hybrid of both bands’ sounds, set in the Wild West each track is a chapter of a story, and we’re going to get comic book illustrators to hand draw it too. It’s going to be really self indulgent!” Things get a bit out of hand as I compare it to a folk version of R-Kelly’s ‘Trapped In The Closet’. We come to the conclusion that maybe this idea is much less controversial!

As the half hour chat draws to a close, I ask the band what’s next: “We have our biggest headline show to date at the Scala in London next month as a part of our own headline tour. Our best ever gig up till now? Maybe our album launch, a stripped back gig but with a big brass section so that was nice. I think the most fun we’ve ever had was when we played Bestival, we had had a few drinks but we had so much fun!”

So, taking to the stage to whet the anticipating audience, Ralph and co. rifle through a short set which starts with ‘Gasp’, one of the album’s strongest tracks which winds in and out of big and small, expanding out of soft honeyed vocals into crescendoed hooks and back out again. ‘Funeral’ was popular amongst a gathering that were obviously well aware of the band and familiar with much of their set which seemed obviously gratifying to the beaming band members. A well received set was concluded by the arrival of Bastille’s Dan Smith onto the stage which stunned the crowd. It’s not every day a support act bring on stage the lead singer of the headline band! A duet for their final track ‘Choices’ rounds off an arresting set that pleased both the huge audience and band alike.

Stepping out to the Twin Peaks soundtrack, Bastille embarked on their biggest headline show to date to a sea of Jager fuelled teens clad in Bastille hats, tees and any other merch they could get their hands on. With his gravity defying Van de Graaff generated quiff, Dan Smith blasts into title track ‘Bad Blood’ as strobe lights flicker and pour out over a floor which moves as one to the catchy refrain. Rolling through a set which celebrates their début success, they move through the gears, slowed down by various soothing intros. ‘Overjoyed’ for instance revels in Smith’s dulcet vocals, which are a catalyst for mass sing-alongs.

His energy on stage is captivating and it’s a joy to watch a band so enthused by what they do. Their set is punctuated by cover versions of City High’s ‘What Would You Do’ and a Snap-Corona mash up of ‘Rhythm of The Night’ and ‘Rhythm Is A Dancer’; the former being much more successfully reinvented.

Still, their defining points are the big banging anthemic pop moments of Pompeii and Flaws, bookending the encore. The latter displays an intricate vocal arrangement over trickling synth to which Smith is not content with performing it on stage, so decides to meet and greet the entire audience, performing different verses in different sections of the crowd. Nice.

The set is a short triumph. This isn’t rock, nor is it indie, it is pop which is very well crafted and very well performed and you cannot begrudge their big moment in the limelight. Their biggest challenge is following the album up with anything bigger.

Adam Keyworth

Adam has been listening to Tyler – ‘Tamale’…


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