Crystal Castles & HEALTH – Academy 2, Manchester 23/10/2010

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There’s something altogether otherworldly about going to a Crystal Castles gig – something probably not helped when they’re playing at the same venue as current mainstream radio darling Travie McCoy. So whilst the queue to get in alternates between underaged girls applying hairspray and underaged girls talking about Gym Class Heroes (all of them, invariably, smoking and drinking vodka from coca cola bottles), it’s difficult not to feel a little bit odd.

Crystal Castles are now, undoubtedly, big news. Aided by big name festival appearances and years of intensive touring , Ethan and Alice have managed to transform themselves from hipster weirdos to an act that can easily fill mid-sized venues. The pubescent goths litter are the first in attendance, something seemingly more out of habit than love for support act HEALTH. Hardily the most accessible of acts, a few of the more well meaning college kids try and get into their genre bending noise, with an erstwhile litre bottle of vodka raised to the air for effect. The band are their usual, all encompassing selves, slowly managing to win over the swelling mass of bodies in front of them whilst showcasing some newer efforts.

Comparisons between reactions to the two bands can rarely be more precise than this, with both acts pedalling their own interpretation of the same song. One version of ‘Crimewave’ is greeted with restrained cheers and applause. The other is met by hollering, a man lighting up a spliff and a girl getting on someone’s shoulders for a better view. So whilst HEALTH may have created the track, it’s Alice Glass who gets to reap it’s rewards, which she does with her trademark bizarre nonchalance.

If the steady rise of Crystal Castles has been somewhat shocking, their ability to accept this new reality and move on must be more so. Whilst Glass has always had the air of a rockstar in waiting, the kind of person moony Dads will bore their children about in a decade’s time, the amount of bands that could base an entire show around her posturing and still be electric must be in single figures. With the aid of a live drummer and LEDs, they’re utterly devastating, a stark reminder of just why they’re a cut above everyone else.

The old material understandably gets a better reception than the work from Crystal Castles II, but the fact that their slightly more obtuse later material still has the venue in raptures is just as beguiling, with the cut and paste racket of ‘Doe Deer’ and glitchy mess of ‘Celestica’c getting the sweaty mass of bodies moving. They manage to keep the energy levels high enough to trot out a slightly stilted encore before finally leaving to a genuine ovation from their bizarre, diverse fanbase. Whether Travie McCoy put on a similar show upstairs is, sadly, unconfirmed.