Live Review: Crystal Fighters at Newcastle University Student Union – 28th November 2013

By on Thursday, 19th December 2013 at 2:00 pm

Of all the cultural detritus left behind by the 1970s – flared trousers, tank tops, Alan Freeman – surely one of the most noted musical aberrations is the drum solo. Still popular with hair metal bands throughout the 1980s, rock (in common with the rest of civil society) underwent an enlightenment-style moment of humble clarity from the ‘90s onwards, meaning the drummer was for many years denied their one moment literally in the spotlight. Crystal Fighters, however, in their quest to visit as many genres of popular music as possible in one night, give drummer Andrea Marongiu as much time as he needs in which to demonstrate his tub-thumping chops unsullied by the indignity of overlaid melodic instrumentation. Much like Dennis Potter’s single cigarette in a glass display case, the very rarity of a decent drum solo gives it an intoxicating, illicit air. A moment which traditionally was a decent excuse to nip to the bar is transformed into a set highlight.

Crystal Fighters are perhaps the perfect Euro-band. They look far and wide for inspiration, both stylistically and geographically, eschewing the shrugged-off cool of many acts in favour of extroversion and even an occasional affinity for the cheesier side of Europop. Despite being a Londoner, singer Sebastian Pringle emerges clad in sequinned Arabesque robes, his head entirely covered in sparkling chiffon, brandishing what can only be described as two bunches of gourds, looking for all the world as if he’s just escaped from a north African souk, and has somehow managed to swap a life peddling overpriced tat to naïve tourists for one where he’s the frontman of a successful dance-rock combo.

Crystal Fighters jamming

It’s no coincidence that in this context he appears a shamanic figure, exhorting the crowd to uplift themselves, transcend their earthly cares and spread the love. This well-refreshed university crowd need little encouragement to join the love-in; the gig is effectively a soundtrack to their journey of spiritual enlightenment. And Crystal Fighters are well-placed to supply it – what they lack in mental challenge they make up for in euphoria-inducing melodies and arrangements. Let’s start with the hits. ‘Plage’ is almost childlike in its content and delivery, having only a handful of lyrics and based around a simple ukulele riff, heavy with references to hearts and love. ‘At Home’ is a fascinating lunge for the Mediterranean beach-bar market – five minutes of nailed-on Euro-chill-out-pop which attempts to transcend language barriers by making most of its vocal content: either “oh-oh”s, “yeah-yeah”s, or other nonsensical (but not necessarily meaningless) vowel sounds. The question is, not how well it’s done – very – but whether an English-speaking audience might ask for a bit more insight with their cheese.

Crystal Fighters Sebastian hands

As the evening wears on, the tempo increases. The tone of ‘Love Is All I Got’ is self-explanatory from the title – the platitudes “wake your soul with love in the morning / feed your soul with love in the evening / expand your soul with love on the weekend” are set to the classic euro-house instrumentation of kick drum, white-noise snare and filtered synth lines; this is band-as-Ibiza-DJ-set-climax. And whilst that might be the final crescendo of most bands’ sets, Crystal Fighters have yet another level to reach for. ‘Follow’ is nothing less than an ambitious blend of Omar Souleyman’s techno-dabke, eastern European klezmer and western drum and bass. The room likes it – a lot. And after almost two hours, and countless genres, they’re gone.

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2:01 pm
19th December 2013

New post: Live Review: Crystal Fighters @crystalfighters at Newcastle University Student Union – 28th November 2013:

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