Monday, 25 November 2013

Crystal Fighters @ Concorde 2 | 21st November 13 | Review by James Lillywhite

Crystal Fighters are a band defined by their raw positive energy. Their music, a blend of synth-pop and alternative dance, shines with positivity and happiness and on record their tunes can bring a smile to the face of any listener. Both albums so far in their career, 2010’s Star of Love and this year’s Cave Rave, have been excellent listens, but it is live where Crystal Fighters truly come into their own. Energetic, talented and, most importantly, fun, the London based 6-piece are a band designed to be enjoyed in the live environment, and they did not disappoint at the Concorde 2. 

From the moment Crystal Fighters emerged to the sold out Brighton crowd the room went wild. Starting with ‘Follow’, the band played 90 minutes of their relentlessly happy dance pop. They are a band who seems to not only enjoy performing live, but thrive on it. Drum solos, crowd surfing and endless sequins are all on the cards tonight.

‘At Home’, ‘I Love London’, ‘Xtatic Truth’ and many other fan favourites are played to a raucous reception. In fact, the one moment they slowed down is for was Cave Rave’s sing-a-long ‘Bridge of Bones’, but by the time the song reached its crescendo the crowd were going as crazy as ever.

Frontman Sebastian Pringle leads the band emphatically. Wearing a gold sequined head scarf and aviators, Pringle never let the energy drop. Whether he was commanding the crowd at the microphone, or playing guitar in the audience, he dominated the stage. He is complemented perfectly by lead guitarist Graham Dickson. On first appearances he looks like he is playing in the wrong band. Contrasting the bright colours and vast sequins of the rest of the band, Dickson emerged shirtless in skinny black jeans. As soon as he started to play, however, it is clear that he belongs with the rest of Crystal Fighters. Running around the stage, jumping on speakers and pulling out all of the rock star poses in the book, Dickson’s clear passion and infectious enthusiasm make him another focal point in the band.

Crystal Fighters at the Concorde 2, the first show of their UK tour, were a true success. The bands raw energy, combined with their positive and catchy pop songs, came together to create an excellent live performance. The young Brighton crowd danced from the first to the last moment, and, when the lights went up for the final time, no one left disappointed. Dickson at one point, during a rare break in the set, spoke directly to the audience to remind us that “this is reality”. With this kind of reaction, and further shows sold out across the country too, it seems that it is Crystal Fighters themselves that should be reminded that this is not all a dream. They are a band on a seemingly unrelenting upwards trajectory and, if tonight’s show is anything to go by, it will take a hell of a lot to stop them.

Review by James Lillywhite

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Submotion Orchestra Review by James Lillywhite

Submotion Orchestra live at Concorde 2, 17/11/13

The right atmosphere is vital to playing a successful gig. Regardless of the genre or the size of the band, getting the mood just right can make or break just how good a show is. Submotion Orchestra understand this better than most. 

From the moment the house lights dimmed and ‘SubMo’ walked onstage, the audience could tell that they were in for a special night. Accompanied by stunning minimalist lighting, the band began 90 minutes of their signature combination of dubstep, jazz and soul. It is a unique sound and, combined with the tranquil light show, is perfectly suited for the live environment. It was a show designed to engross an audience, to demand the singular attention of every person in the venue. If attaining the right atmosphere is vital to a live show then, Submotion Orchestra are playing a perfect game. 

Touring in support of their new EP ‘1968’, the band included a large amount of new songs in their setlist. While this can sometimes be a negative thing in the live environment, in this case the less familiar songs allowed the Brighton crowd to marvel at the exceptional musicianship of the band. 

From the sheer energy of the two percussionists Danny Templeman and Tommy Evans, to the blissful vocal skills of Ruby Wood, Submotion Orchestra are undoubtedly a talented outfit. In particular, the multi-instrumental skills of Bobby Beddoe and Taz Modi shine. Whether it be Modi’s beautiful tinkering at the piano, or Beddoe’s wonderful trumpet solos, these two front the band as much as Wood. Even the moment when Modi’s chair gives way under him halfway through the set (to which the audience applauded mid-song) can only distract for a small moment.

While the new songs were successful, it was the fan favourites that provided the highlights of the set. ‘It’s Not Me It’s You’, ‘Sunshine’ and many others were played, but it was ‘All Yours’ that was the stand out song of the Sunday night show. Backed by moody green lighting, Wood commanded the crowd in a sing-a-long, and as the track built into crescendo, so did the audience reaction. It was a truly show stopping moment, and one which will live long in the memory. 

The only negative of the night actually had nothing to do with the band. While most members of the crowd were swept away in the set, there was an unfortunate constant murmur of drunken chatter throughout. During some of the louder moments this was fine, but it was especially distracting during the quieter nuanced songs. It was a real shame, as the performance of the band demanded a focused audience, but a small minority undermined that idea. 

Aside from that, Submotion Orchestra were truly a marvel at the Concorde 2. The Leeds based seven-piece manipulated the atmosphere to create a unique air of visceral beauty. It was a live performance of pure quality and one that confirmed ‘SubMo’ as one of the premier live progressive electronic acts in the UK today.

Review by James Lillywhite