We did something unusual at the Embassy on Saturday: we hosted a rock concert. Bastille, one of Britain's hottest new bands, dropped by during their U.S. tour and played a short acoustic set in front of an audience of Embassy staffers and DC101 competition winners (see the slideshow). In contrast to their album, Bad Blood, Bastille went totally unplugged, with only one instrument (a guitar) between the four of them. I was blown away by the depth and richness of sound they were able to produce using tight vocal harmonies, finger clicks, clapping and foot-stamping.
Thankfully, it was a lot more chilled out than a previous visit by another band looking to break into America. In 1964 the Beatles came to a reception here. Things got a little out of hand: John Lennon and George Harrison were mobbed by autograph hunters, and Ringo Starr left minus a lock of his hair, removed by an overly enthusiastic fan who sneaked in past security.
Bastille have been working hard to crack the U.S. market, and it's paying off: they've already added a Billboard top 20 album and a number 2 single on iTunes to their chart success back home. They arrived at the Embassy having driven all night from New York in a van with their tour manager behind the wheel. They not only played but cheerfully signed posters and CDs and posed for photos with audience members. After the show I gave the band a tour of the residence gardens. They instantly recognised, and were very impressed with, the Gormley sculpture we have there. Among other things, we chatted a bit about Iran, where I previously worked as a diplomat.
A lot of British acts have been doing well in the U.S. recently, and they run across genres, from One Direction to Mumford and Sons, Ed Sheeran to Emilie Sandé. Perhaps the most successful of them all is Adele, whose ten-times-platinum album 21 has, incredibly, been the best selling album in the U.S. for two years in a row -- a first for any artist, of any nationality. Check out our BuzzFeed for more fun facts about British music.
It was a real pleasure meeting Bastille, especially because their album has been in heavy rotation on my iPod for months now. After wrapping up their U.S. tour, Bastille head back across the Atlantic for a tour of Europe. But they've certainly made a big splash stateside, and I'm sure we'll see them back before long. I have a feeling they're going to be huge.