Crystal Castles @ The Tivoli


6 jan. 2012, 2h14m

Wed 4 Jan – Crystal Castles, DZ Deathrays

Crystal Castles
The Tivoli, Brisbane
Wednesday 4 January 2012

For all the attention that Crystal Castles pay to their image, in the flesh it seems, somehow, effortless. Clearly some thought goes into their stage plot: there's an enormous banner featuring the dead-eyed graveyard child from the cover of their second album. There's eight strobe lights flanked by a dozen vertical LED strips. There's Ethan Kath, mastermind of electronica, hunched over his equipment and wearing a hoodie throughout their hour-long set, despite the sticky heat that soon envelopes the entire room. There's the drummer, Christopher Chartrand, atop a riser and essentially sitting in the dark, strobes aside. And there's vocalist Alice Glass, forever the focal point; at once coming across as something between heroin chic and porcelain doll. Theirs is an arresting, distinctive identity which, thanks to two quality albums and a reputation for chaotic live shows, has long since shot them beyond the annals of anonymous electronic music, and into something more like rock-stardom.

During past Australian tours, the band's only constraining factor has been their inability to sustain momentum. Three years ago at The Met, they barely made it to 40 minutes. It’s a vastly different act we witness tonight; a tour-hardened power trio who open with ‘Intimate’ and don’t really let up until the encore (‘Not In Love’) almost an hour later. The opener is a cut buried deep on Crystal Castles, their 2010 self-titled album -- it seems a strange choice on paper, yet all traces of doubt are erased once their enormous sound and banks of flashing blue lights stream out into the full theatre. It’s been six weeks since I’ve seen live music, so this is the aural equivalent of being blasted with a leaf blower. It’s a bit of a cliché, but in the moment, it feels like sensory overload. My analytical mind is several beats behind what my eyes and ears are interpreting. It’s an extraordinary feeling that I’ve rarely encountered before and it sets the bar extremely high for what’s to come. And the strangest thing about the entire scene - Alice’s creepy, strobe-affected dancing; the crowd on the floor heaving as one; the inexplicable sensation that this feels like an end-of-days rave in a foreign land - is how utterly effortless these three make it seem.

Full marks, too, to their sound and lighting technicians, as well as the stagehand who watches Glass like a hawk and acts as her safety net during her frequent ventures into - and onto - the crowd. There’s a classic moment late in the set when the singer’s cigarette is extinguished; she mimes for a cigarette lighter, sees a flame several rows back, and leaps toward it, held aloft, face down, fag in mouth. It doesn’t quite work - she has to return to the stage, lighter in hand, to complete the transaction - but nobody in the crowd will forget the moment anytime soon. (Afterwards, she drops back into the photo pit to blow smoke into the mouths of fans in the front row; earlier, she was spitting whiskey at them.) All the while, Kath and Chartrand rave on, utterly absorbed in the sound. The band don’t make eye contact with one another once during the set, nor do they communicate with the audience. It’s one of the most fascinating, immersive shows I’ve seen. For an hour, we’re in their world, and it feels right.

Strangely for such a strong live act, Glass’ voice is all but indistinguishable, owing to her use of digitised effects (which are seemingly triggered at the sound desk, or perhaps by Kath, as Glass switches between clean vocals and effects without doing anything herself). Midway through a set packed wall-to-wall with almost every track from their two albums, I realise that Alice could be singing her shopping list (“Eyeliner. Stockings. Cigarettes. Whiskey.”) underneath pretty much any of these songs. It does not matter one fucking bit. Their sound, their identity, their narrative is so enticing — their performance tonight is so convincing — that I can barely reconcile the Crystal Castles I saw in February 2009 with the same band in January 2012. Now that they’ve sealed up the one chink in their armour — their once-patchy live shows — there’ll be no stopping them. I can’t tell you how much this excites me.

The Vine


  • peteresque

    Bugger! Wish I'd gone!

    8 jan. 2012, 22h17m
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