Concert review: Crystal Fighters

VIENNA, Va., June 1, 2012 –The English/Spanish band Crystal Fighters bring an unusually convoluted conceit to their live shows.  They pride themselves on being storytellers on the stage, and their show Tuesday night at the Rock and Roll Hotel was an extension of that premise.

A band that claims to tell a story through their live show seems a bit misleading to anyone who’s aware of this information ahead of time. Typically, the notion of a band telling a story through lyric and song is understood as building up a narrative line as in a movie. Both are visual mediums, so it seems likely that both would possess many similarities.

That’s not necessarily the case with Crystal Fighters. A lack of narrative coherence is often true of any band that sets out to tell a story as a central element in their live show. In traditional story telling, it’s important to set up a beginning, middle, and end for the narrative so that the audience has a tangible idea of what’s happening at every point. But a conventional narrative is not the first or even the last thing on Crystal Fighter’s mind during their show.

What is important, and what they mean by their notion of creating a story, has more to do with creating a through-line running between their songs, connecting what happens at the beginning of the show with the very last song. To them, it’s both important and relevant to use their music to create an emotional narrative that anyone in the audience can draw on from start to finish.

This idea began with the band’s first studio album Star of Love. The notion behind the album was to create a modernized opera of sorts based around the writings of vocalist Laure Stockley’s grandfather. The purported premise was to use this story line to unlock the deeper meaning to life, the universe, and beyond. Most critics proceeded to delicately poke holes in this storyline, albeit pointing out the inherent creativity in what Crystal Fighters were attempting to do.

Taken on its own merit, the idea that the album tells a story doesn’t support its own weight. It simply doesn’t hold together. It’s very high concept, maybe too much so, and all the pretensions that comes with it are present on the album. And the album, in turn, is very much an extension of their live show.

But critically picking apart the narrative structure of Crystal Fighters’ album and subsequently their live show is entirely missing the point. Snarky criticism is an effortless and enjoyable pastime. But to put it truthfully, any band that would adhere to strict storytelling structures of other mediums would churn out a pretty boring product for a pop music audience. And the Crystal Fighters’ set is anything but boring.

The whole concept Crystal Fighters have based their band around seems more like a creative way to play with as many different sounds as possible without having to constantly explain why they felt it necessary to branch off in various directions. They’re using the idea of story to weave creative and emotional musical coherence into the audience experience.

In the end, it’s not important to pick up on any of the narrative themes of the band’s songs. In reality, if you take a closer look, the narrative structure is simply fancy window dressing. Crystal Fighters just want to create up-tempo fusion rock their audience can dance to, but they want to remain emotionally fun and interesting in the process. Taken as a whole, their premise helps build the energy during the band’s live set, an energy that they refuse to let go of for the entire night.

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener. Read more of his work in Riffs at the Washington Times Communities.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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