Before I start this review I have to make a social observation. If you bring an iPad to concert like this you either have far too much expendable income and should really re-evaluate how you spend your money (have you considered helping the poor and needy for example) or you are just a total f’ing douche bag. Or, most likely both, in which case my advise will fall on metaphorical deaf ears.
The show ran inexplicably late – Randa was scheduled to commence her support slot at 9.30 – it was past 10.25 by the time she came on. But then again, I am pretty sure she was all over by 10.40. And while usually the adage “a short set is a good set” is something I respond well to – this, frankly didn’t warrant the wait. Perhaps the sound wasn’t the best from my vantage point but all I heard was a couple of ‘yeah-uhuhs’ before a rambled verse or two; no hooks; no chorus; no complete songs. I was left not really affected by the performance. The Totems production on a new song was, from what I could tell, of quality, but I am not entirely sold on Randa living up to the expectations levied upon her by those eager for the new thang to be, y’know, a thing.
But, finally Crystal Castles took the stage amid siren clarion calls and flashing lights – an onslaught of epic proportions was what we were expecting, but could we ever, truly, be prepared for Ethan Kath and Alice Glass (and touring drummer Christopher Chartrand). If they were a weather system, we’d batten down all manner of hatches.
Opening with Plague and Baptism – Alice left the stage early on in the show to walk upon (not amongst, upon) the crowd – held aloft like a demonic goddess of noise. She owned that audience and they knew it.
By the time Wrath of God was pulsing (like fourth or fifth song in?) disorientated and sweaty members of the audience were pushing their way out of the main space – presumably to re-hydrate / read a map. I swear, one man who brushed past had seemingly sweated more perspiration in those minutes since the beginning of the show than I wager his entire life. An I had the unenviable pleasure of having it wiped across me as he squeezed through.
It was a hedonistic rats-tale of a crowd – a quick head count versus hands-in-the-mf’ing-air count didn’t compute – some people either had three or four hands and others had lost their heads. Indeed, people were losing all sorts of things, their inhibitions, their minds and their shit. In one darker moment I spotted a lone security personnel aloft on a raised platform shining a mag-light haplessly into the crowd – perhaps looking for one of the aforementioned items of lost property. (I imagined one poor soul approaching him – “excuse me, has anyone handed in my shit cos i just lost it in there…?”)
A brief conversation with a friend between support and mani event revealed he and his significant other had been at the sold-out Alabama Shakes across town at the Powerstation and he observed that there were “a lot of sixty-year olds there.” I wagered, with no hesitation, that there really would be no sixty-year olds here.
There were moments were music, sirens, white noise and lights all became the same thing and it was blissful, beautiful and agonising. So very good. So exciting. Darkness would descend between songs; synths and Alice’s processed voiced melded as one into Crimewave – and if I’m not mistaken – Satan’s gameboy played at a million decibels prompted a magnificently weird breakdown. I saw some peoples souls ascend into the heavens at this point. Blissful carnage.
Glass smoked a cigarette ever so cooly while the robotic noises surrounded her defied death – and before I could fathom quite what was happening she had climbed onto Chartrand’s drum kit to thrash and yelp like a fantastic banshee.
Celestica sounded almost sweet and light amongst the rest of the brutal soundscapes – and it was these euphoric juxtapositions that really gave this live show it’s dynamic and excitement – Crystal Castles clearly know just how far they can push you to an edge before they then pull you back into a warm embrace.
The ended their set with the fantastic I’m Not in Love – a perfect closing embrace thou shalt not want. I admit to leaving as the first song of the encore began – I’d had my fill and was more than satisfied. Thank you Crystal Castles you were amazing.