by Jeff Niesel
Throughout the first half of the raucous 90-minute set Crystal Castles delivered last night in front a half-full House of Blues, the group appeared to be having technical difficulties. Given that everything about the band’s electronic music involves the use of high tech electronic gear, technical problems can really throw a wrench into the operation. To be honest, though, the band’s noisy approach makes it difficult to tell when something is actually going wrong — the music is a sonic stew that sounds like the band’s mixed Cocteau Twins dream pop with Sleigh Bells-inspired punk and noise pop. In fact, there was so much distortion on singer Alice Glass’s vocals that her actual words were often hard to discern.
The technical problems, however, didn’t stop the lively singer from getting a workout. Wearing a short black skirt and mid-riff baring black T-shirt, she looked like some kind of punk rock Raggedy Ann doll as she danced and bobbed her head, tossing her bright pink hair from side to side. She occasionally lit up a cigarette and at one point wrapped her microphone chord around her neck to form a noose of sorts. Like some kind of enraged performance artist, she was always up to something and she regularly dove into the audience (and would somehow find her way back to the stage unscathed). She would also hop atop touring drummer Christopher Chartrand’s kit to bang away at one of his cymbals.
By mid-set, the technical problems seemed to have been fixed and the show gathered some real momentum. “Alice Practice” benefited from beefier bass and Glass seductively swung her microphone stand as she delivered screechy vocals over the glitchy beats. The set-closing “Not in Love” was the one song that had real heart, even if Glass didn’t deliver it as eloquently as guest Robert Smith did on the studio version. While the set ended rather abruptly with nothing like a formal goodbye, the band was ushered back for an encore that included a noisy rendition of “Doe Deer.” Glass again dove into the crowd as the band cranked up the strobe lights to a blinding level and put an exclamation mark on a performance that thrilled despite (what appeared to be) technical difficulties.