Saturday, 17 September 2011

Crystal Fighters: Live @ Shepherds Bush Empire

Crystal Fighters' debut album 'Star Of Love' has pretty much been on constant rotation in my girlfriend's car for everything from the supermarket run to trips down motorways on course for weddings and back again.

The vastly layered and intriguingly experimental long player has now been deeply embedded in both our minds and trepidation and excitement of seeing how this translates live has brought us into the heart of the Shepherds Bush Empire.

I was genuinely surprised, and possibly a little downheartened as opener Solar System was played by something resembling a rather standard band set-up, with a pounding drum-kit and ferocious guitar sound wrapping itself around what on record is a bass-driven stomper of a dance-influenced beast.

But this was merely a tease, as three songs in and the familiar, assimilated dub-step drop of Swallow remains wholly intact for the live rendition, prompting me further into the throng of bodies tossed around with abandon before the stage as I throw my own shapes with joy.

It is within the crush of the crowd that you truly experience Crystal Fighters and all of their energy, delivered by the movement of people, and yet it is still possible to find yourself, with your hands in the air and with your own personal space to dance and be free, whilst the sweat drips down your back and spilt beer squelches and slips underfoot.

The band follow the twists and turns of the album live, proving themselves evermore eclectic and fascinating with each song, whether it be the manic pneumatic drumlines and harsh dance vibes of I Love London that is tailor-made for a Shoreditch scenester's rave, or the blissed out summer calypso sound of Plage that transports you to far-away beaches with dreams of dancing without end.  Every track is delivered effortlessly to a crowd that truly believe in this band, and by closing track At Home, with the lights up, the entire venue, from the lower stalls, to the ascending balconies, are in thrall, and singing back the chorus' simple refrain with unbelievable passion.

A crowd this dedicated are not fooled though, and no sooner have the band exited the stage do the cries for Xtatic Truth begin.  And sure enough they return, taking a brief detour via a cover of a 'Golpes Bajos' number before arriving at the called for crowd pleaser.  This is it, the end of the night, and the nearing of the end of the journey that Crystal Fighters have taken in support of their spectacular debut album.

Xtatic Truth pulls no punches, it is what everyone wanted and everyone gets exactly what they expected.  One last chance to jump around, dance around and sing, a dizzying euphoria flows in waves as the heaving, sweaty mass move together as one, jubilation spread by a powerful and hypnotic performance before being evicted from this fantasy and back onto the streets of Shepherds Bush and the ever nearing signs of Autumn.

At Home by Crystal Fighters

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