Crystal Castles delight at the House of Blues

A review of the HARD Summer Tour with Crystal Castles at the House of Blues on August 17, 2010

, Staff Writer

Although the LA-based HARD Fest has been bringing massive dance parties to the city for a number of years, 2010 marks the first in which the producers are taking the show on the road. A sort of mini-dance festival, the HARD Summer Tour largely features sets from Rusko, Sinden, and Destructo, all of whom are playing in support of a whopper of a headliner: Crystal Castles. Although their set at Boston’s House of Blues was brief (which was further compounded by some technical issues), the duo blasted the eardrums of those in attendance with just under an hour of relentless robot attack music.

Taking the stage to a dense wall of noise, Crystal Castles kicked things off with “Fainting Spells”, the opening track of their most recent album, which got the audience’s blood flowing again after a long wait between acts. The differences between the band’s material in the studio and on-stage immediately became clear: everything is louder, more frenetic and visceral. Simplistic synth lines grow harder around the edges, and vocalist Alice Glass fills the entire stage, looking intimidatingly cool as she screams her lungs out, writhing violently to the beat in front of wild flashing lights. Ethan Kath kept a distinctly low profile, hood up and face usually buried in a laptop or keyboard. Chris Chartrand, the band’s stage drummer, added a nice edge to all of the electronic samples being used, but otherwise did little else but mimic the beats Kath produced. The whole show would be like this – Glass cutting loose in front of her bandmates, the audience taking the cue and going nuts themselves, in a constant stream of blaring, dirty electronica. The audience – a fairly young, sub-21 crowd – responded appropriately, a huge mass of people moving constantly to Crystal Castles’ driving beats.

An easy mistake more dance-y artists often make is in the pacing of their set. There needs to be a balance between highs and lows, or the audience will either wear itself out or grow bored, respectively. Crystal Castles did a great job of mixing up their setlist enough to keep things interesting. On one hand, there were songs like “Empathy”, a slow hip-hop beat underneath an unchanging and simplistic tune, while on the other hand there’s “Intimate”, faster and more complex. Though the evening’s set was heavily beat-driven, “Black Panther” was one of the more melodic tunes performed, Kath laying down a chiptune line that the rest of the song built itself around.

At one point in the middle of the set, the House’s fire alarm was tripped, resulting in the PA being cut off and all house lights to flood on. The crowd was surprisingly calm during this whole episode, and after a few minutes the band walked back on stage and continued their set as though nothing had happened. It wasn’t long before Crystal Castles won everyone over again. As the show began to draw to a close, Alice Glass, with a healthy running start, fearlessly leapt into the crowd, floating around upstretched hands for a good two minutes before being deposited back on stage. The evening ended with “Untrust Us”, though the only similarities between the studio and live cut were the lyrics: the beat, underlying melody, even tempo, were extensively reworked. The decision to change the track so drastically was surprising, and a bit disappointing, as “Untrust Us” is arguably one of Crystal Castles’ strongest pieces. The song ended abruptly, simply dropping off into silence, and the show ended with no prospect of an encore.

If you’re going to a Crystal Castles show, you probably have a pretty good idea what you’re getting into. It’s going to be a raucous dance party, top to bottom, and the kind of stage presence Alice Glass has is only going to further goad the crowd into going wild. The band has given dance music a nudge towards its next evolution, and it’s exciting to see a new take on a somewhat stagnant genre unfold right in front of you.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Boston Music Spotlight – Your Source for Music News and Concert … | Concert News

Leave a Reply