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27 Music Crystal Castles with Health: Live at the Academy Dublin

Experimental Canadian electronic duo Crystal Cas- tles’ reputation for chaotic and ferocious live shows is not unfounded, as Jack Broughan recently found out.

Emerging from the depths of the backstage; Health look almost too young to be on stage. Dressed in slightly baggy t-shirts and tight jeans they look like a cross be- tween hip club regulars and scabby skate kids. However after their timid introduction of “Hi we’re Health from California” all bets are off.

Health’s opening track is like

being assaulted by a sack of irate 8-bit video game characters. The opening barrage is not without focus though. In fact Health are as tight as a nut, transitions between songs, sudden breaks and pauses are preformed effortlessly. This combined with the pound-

ing volume and Benjamin Jared Miller’s reverb soaked and almost choral vocals make their set sound calculated and simultaneously pun- ishing. The band blended in large

parts of Get Colour -their newest album- with older tracks like ‘Triceratops’ and ‘Glitter Pills’. After Health leave the stage, the

in-house lights change from bright blues and greens to a harsh dim white. Another barrage of noise and flailing percussion signal the entrance of Ethan Kath and Crystal Castle’s session drummer, Christo- pher Chartrand. A slight pause and they barrel

into the opening bars of ‘Fainting Spells’, and then the arrival of Alice Glass. Clad in a German army surplus jacket she contorts to the rhythm, visibly pleased at the roar from the crowd that her en- trance has garnered. Alice does not fail to disappoint.

Frequently she jumps headfirst into the crowd swinging both the mi- crophone and a litre bottle of Jack Daniels. Glass’s plunges into the

audience make it quite clear that she’s the centre of attention for the night. The audience lap it up. Each trip into the crowd causes

a large push from one end of the venue to the other. Falls and stray elbows and thrown punches come pretty thick and fast. None of which comes as a surprise to any- one, if anything this is one of the less violent Crystal Castles gigs. The set, like Health’s is a com-

bination of their first two epony- mous -and rather confusingly-titled albums. ‘Baptism’, ‘Alice Practise’ and one of the band’s first singles; ‘Insestica’ are wheeled out. The performance is far from perfect, the vocals are muddy in the mix and Glass frequently misses lyrics largely because of time spent in the crowd or rolling about on the stage. However that’s the beauty of

Crystal Castles gigs. Imperfect but unrelenting,

the performance

makes their gigs unpredictable vi- olent and ultimately exciting. The band finishes on an ex- tended version of ‘Yes No’, com-

Something for the Weekend

Even in the absence of a full band, Neil Hannon’s shows retain that divine quality as Craig Manton was lucky enough to discover.

Neil Hannon, rich-voiced

chanteur of sophisticated and witty pop, is a pleasure to listen to on CD, and even more of a pleasure to actually see performing on stage. He came to the Everyman Theatre in Cork on Sunday, October 10th, and I was lucky enough to get one

of the last tickets to the show; at €23, it turned out to be superb value for money. Hannon and The Divine Com-

edy - who in truth are just Hannon and whatever supporting musicians happen to be with him; as lead singer and songwriter, he is the

only constant - have seen some- thing of a revival in recent years with some excellent albums, but their glory days of popularity in the 1990s are now well behind them. No matter; Hannon's talent for both singing and writing remain undi- minished. Before Hannon goes on stage,

we are treated to his supporting act, namely one David Turpin. He sings offbeat songs somewhat rem- iniscent of Morrissey, and at one point reveals a sheep's skull he found while wandering the coun- tryside, only to use it as an instru- ment for one of his songs! That certainly gets our attention, and his nudge-wink silliness gets us nicely warmed up for Neil Hannon. Turpin leaves the stage to warm applause and more than a few raised eyebrows. We wait with an- ticipation for the main act. After a short break, Hannon en-

ters the hall at the Everyman The- atre to our thunderous approval, clad in black suit, black hat and sunglasses; it's for his "mystique", he later informs us, tongue in cheek. The show was billed as "An

Evening With Neil Hannon", and that's what it is. He is completely alone, no band, sharing the stage with only a guitar and a piano, both of which he plays with consider-

able skill. More than his instru- mental abilities, the audience adores his songs, written and per- formed with knowing wit, outright humour (in some cases) and heart- felt pathos (in others). After belting out the first song

he engages in some amusing back- and-forth banter with the audience (there's a lot of that; he is charming and gladly points out his own mis- takes during songs). He proceeds to sing a mixture of both famous Divine Comedy chart hits and lesser known album gems. These songs are epic enough on CD, but become truly moving as he per- forms them live, voice booming around the theatre hall. Hannon jaunts through ‘The

Complete Banker’ with gusto, a scathing attack on our lords and masters in the financial world, and receives applause matching his quixotic contempt for the banking class. The dark and roiling ‘Swe- den’, a song whose lyrics evoke the beauty of Scandinavia, brings to mind the mysterious imagery of In- gmar Bergman. ‘Something for the Weekend’ is predictably brilliant too, and the surprise of the night is his amusing rendition of ‘Don't You Want Me’ by the Human League - he does his best to hit the high notes for the female vocals! He improvises a lot and gets the

audience in on the act. He laughs at forgotten lyrics (we laugh too, with rather than at him), asks us to become involved by clapping along, and mocks an audience member who insists on recording the show instead of just enjoying it. During one song he gets people

in the front row to tell jokes (which are wonderfully dire, especially the one about Princess Diana). Before he performs the beautiful ‘Songs of Love’ - the track whose instrumen- tal became the theme tune for '90s sitcom Father Ted - he asks us to whistle the haunting melody near the end, which we duly do. It's a magical moment of shared per- formance. He claims that Cork has the best whistlers, although he probably says that to the audience in every city. The absence of ‘Everybody

Knows’ and ‘Generation Sex’ from the song list are the only disap- pointments of the evening, with their being genuinely brilliant pop tracks, but perhaps Hannon sacri- ficed them for the newer material, or just got tired of performing them. If Cork is ever lucky enough to

be graced with Neil Hannon's pres- ence again, I strongly suggest you buy a ticket and find out what pop music sounds like when written and performed with intelligence, humour and warmth. It will be money very well spent.

Rating: 5/5

plete with extra loops and strobes. Glass is carried by the crowd into the centre of the venue and remains

October 26th 2010

there until well after the lights have gone up. For a band that frequently is portrayed as upstart moody hip- sters their live show speaks vol- umes about the authenticity of the hype surrounding the band.

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