Gig review: Crystal Castles, ABC, Glasgow

Crystal Castles
Crystal Castles
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All style and very little substance is one critical description that might fairly be levelled at Toronto’s Crystal Castles, but by god, what style.

Crystal Castles

ABC, Glasgow

Star rating: * * * * *

Barely visible amid the sense-punishing neon strobes and thick cloud of battlefield smoke, Alice Glass, Ethan Katz and their live drummer appeared below the arresting, blown-up cover image of their new album (III), Samuel Aranda’s now-famous picture of a Yemeni mother in a burqa cradling her naked, tear-gassed son.

They played in darkness split only by those searing lights, Katz’s punishing, rib-trembling electronic beats – their melodies buried beneath thrilling moves borrowed from minimal techno, sleazy electro and warehouse rave, as well as a hint of synth-pop on tracks from the new record – and the sheer mesmeric quality of Glass herself.

With the crowd chanting her name before the second song, Glass’s indecipherable screech was an oddly effective weapon on anthems such as Crimewave and Alice Practice, and the new album’s Plague and Wrath of God. This is a woman who has broken bones and attacked gropers during shows, and – aside from the tender moment where she instigated a sea of lighter flames in tribute to a departed friend – her trick of crowdsurfing a wave of grasping hands while still performing created a show as dangerously thrilling as live tableaux come.