Saturday, 7 January 2012

Crystal Castles Live Review: This Is Jo's Baptism

Crystal Castles (04/01/2012)
Live at The Tivoli, Brisbane.
 Review by Jo Michelmore

When one is to attend a performance by the Crystal Castles, one wonders what one is to expect. Crystal: a solid, generally see through substance, formed by a repeating pattern. Castles: big brick buildings with (often) not so attractive people living inside. Yep, that’s about what to expect. A solid back catalogue of transparent repeating loud beats inside a big building (with some not so attractive people inside).

I’d heard some mixed reviews of the Crystal Castles so wasn’t really sure what to expect. Some people had loved them, saying they were going to be amazing, energetic, enigmatic, chaotic; I wouldn’t be able to keep my eyes off Alice. Others said she spent all night screaming nonsense in the dark and not much else. For me? A little from column A and a little from column B. I mean, I didn’t see them for a life changing experience, did I? I went to dance. I went to bounce. I went to see Alice jump around like crazy, hopefully spending most of the night atop the crowd and yelling a bit, or a lot and if I was lucky I hoped for some kind of general train wreck of a performance while I was there. I went to the Crystal Castles with these intentions and although I didn’t see the train wreck, I wasn’t disappointed.

The staging is simple, a bunch of strobe lights, various bits of equipment and a microphone. They don’t seem to need much else to please their devoted audience. Alice and Ethan and the other one (ok, it’s Chris, I think, but no one really, actually cares who that is, do they?) played a set a little over an hour long, including the tracks everyone came to see; ‘Courtship Dating’, ‘Baptism’ and ‘Celestica’ and even though I’m sure there was some kind of haphazard sound check pre-performance, at times it was hard to tell, with Alice’s vocal being lost amongst the noise filling the room, especially during the opener; ‘Intimate’. It was good to see her up to her usual antics, climbing all over the (mostly testosterone driven, singlet wearing male) crowd and at one point having her cigarette lit from a lighter being held aloft from a random arm while she was held sideways over them. Everyone loves a good leap into the audience. The only problem is I just don’t know if those antics are enough to convince me to see them again. I’ve seen these antics a hundred times before and surely another cute pixie like angry girl will appear in a few years and do the whole thing over again. The performance was aggressive and cold and everything the Crystal Castles and their marketing team want it to be. The trio didn’t communicate with each other or the audience during the set, which is ok, if that’s their thing, but it kind of makes me wonder why they didn’t just project a live DVD onto a screen and turn the sound up reeeeealllly loud. Same? Same. It has to be said though, the crowd was one of the most entertaining and devoted I’ve seen in a long time and I’m not sure the 95 year old venue has seen many audiences more enthused. Kudos to the Castles (and intoxicating substances) for making an audience so darn happy they’re angry, all at the same time. I left feeling satisfied and happy (but not yet angry), which I guess is the most telling sign of a good gig.

Just one more thing: Ethan. I know it’s your schtick, your thing, but that hoodie? What are you hiding under there? It’s Australia. It’s summer. It’s hot. You look ridiculous. Just sayin'.

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