Homelessness is a concern that is close to my heart and with Bastille easily being one of my favourite bands out there, when the news came of an intimate gig to raise money for Streets of London (registered charity number 1155242), I knew this was going to be special.
An intimate gig to no more than 800 people, it was held in Union Chapel, Islington, a breathtakingly beautiful working church boasting impeccable architecture. The space is multi functional as it is also an award winning venue welcoming tens of thousands of visitors a year aswell as the home of The Margins Project for those homeless and in crisis in London. Streets of London hosted the event in order to raise vital funds which are needed to support the various projects that they work with, one being the Margins Project at Union Chapel whereby training is offered to those who have been homeless and over a 4 month course learn skills in working in a café aswell as serving gig attendees. The project also gives these individuals counselling and employment mentoring and provide an essential support network however all of this comes at a price and Streets of London rely on donations in order to function. The projects are amazing and really help the people who need it the most and with ambassadors such as Dan Smith (Bastille), Ellie Goulding and Justin Young (The Vaccines) any shows they get involved with will be incredible.
22nd May 2017, with temperatures reaching 25C in London, I made my way cross town to Highbury and Islington station where I was met with the incredibly imposing chapel overlooking the area. Making my way past the ever growing queue of fans, I went through the side entrance to the bar and Margins Cafe where there was a small gathering of people waiting patiently. The atmosphere was calm but with a simmering of excitement as most people had seen the teasers on social media from Bastille. At 6.30pm I went into the chapel and took my place on the beautiful pews, centre stage and only 1 row from the front. Ideal spot as far as I was concerned.
The gig was opened by musician Jamie Lee (Money Band) who stood boldly in front of a highly anticipated audience and read a poem which had hard hitting messages in but with an ounce of humour to lighten the mood, and this was then followed by a short set with him singing alone on stage with a guitar and relatable lyrics. Billy Bragg then took the second support spot. With a roar of applause Billy took to the stage again a single performer. I haven’t heard of Billy Bragg before however when looking online he is clearly an very influential singer/ song writer with music that mixes folk music with protest songs and lyrics that incorporate political theme with beautiful melodies. His view on the world is very clear and he is open and honest about his beliefs however he doesn’t preach but instead says what we are all thinking and this forward way of communicating is so admirable.
Sat among authentic wooden pews, with the fantastic stained glass windows around the chapel, high vaulted ceilings and a magnificent font, you would be hard pushed to find a more beautiful venue. The set that Bastille had promised was a stripped back show full of acoustic and that was exactly what we got. Bastille came onto stage with a host of brass and string musicians and the most incredible choir. Despite saying how nervous they were, they sang songs from both albums, Bad Blood and Wild World, and the chapel was full of the most beautiful vocals mixed with such impeccable music. You were left mesmerised throughout the entire show as lead singer Dan Smith, really showed everyone what he is made of with a range that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up on end. The choir were pitch perfect and complimented the band in the finest way possible. They opened with a beautiful version of “Pompeii” in acapella and set the scene for this magical show. What was amazing was how silent the chapel was during the set so that when a note finished, you could have heard a pin drop. Having been to many gigs before and in particular I have been to a Bastille gig before, this was very different to the usually highly energetic sets full of jumping and dancing but equally it was so fitting for the venue and the cause.
Other songs including Warmth, The Currents, Laura Palmer, The Weight of Living (Pt 1), Flaws and Things we Lost In The Fire and even though the audience was in the control of the band, they sang along and the voices echoes across all walls in Union Chapel.
We all leave a show with high feelings on how amazing it was however I can hand on heart say this was the most magical performance I have ever seen and have ever had the privilege to see. Everyone involved should be so proud of what they achieved, the effect that this had on the audience was inspirational and something I do not feel can be accomplished by many. I left the venue and couldn’t stop smiling and talking about what an amazing experience it was to not only witness Bastille and the amazing supporting musicians and vocalists but to be part of a charitable cause which makes such a difference to so many people.
Music is a form of escapism and people attend gigs and concerts to enjoy the lyrics, the atmosphere and to have an memorable evening. Last night, after experiencing my own amazing evening, we heard of the most horrific news coming from Manchester where evil ruined the end of what would have been the most amazing day for many adults, teenagers and children when seeing Ariana Grande. We must not let these cowards win, we will unite and show that good can overcome evil. My thoughts and prayers are with every single person affected by last nights horrendous attack.