Crystal Fighters, Lao Ra: O2 Academy

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Crystal Fighters

Crystal Fighters

Crystal Fighters brought the love to a sold out O2 Academy on a stormy night in Liverpool, and Getintothis’ Paul Fitzgerald went along to get himself deep into the good vibes.

Through sheets of torrential rain and hailstones they came in their droves, braving a storm of almost biblical proportion in search of love and light at this latest sold out Evol show at the O2 Academy. Here in town on the back of their third album, Everything Is My Family, Crystal Fighters delivered a powerfully uniting and energetic, spirited set with a keen and celebratory focus on unity, love, and the best of times.

Lao Ra started the evening with a largely uninspiring set, all heavy electronic drums, no middle in the sound, and some indecipherable high pitched rapping. It probably works well in a smaller venue, but all seemed a little lost here in the vast impersonal surroundings of the O2 Academy. The message, assuming there was one, simply didn’t carry too well, and the crowd spent much of the time angling themselves into position for the main attraction, and practising their selfie skills. Two drummers hammering away at electronic kits, (one of their songs is even called Drum Machine. Perhaps all of them should be.) with a sparse backing track, and a somewhat less than powerful vocal left, for us at least, much room for improvement.

Onwards and upwards, and so to the arrival of Crystal Fighters. From the very outset, with the beginning dramatic strains of frenetic opener Follow, the lid was lifted, and the party well and truly started. Arms raised in sheer euphoric joy, the packed audience reimagined as a welcoming party of friends, fans and followers, feeling the love and sending it right back stage wards. These truly were scenes of unbridled devotion to the Crystal Fighters cause.

Crystal Fighters music doesn’t stand still. There are few moments for introspection, it is a celebration of music, its healing powers, and its unique ability to unite. Something we maybe could all do a little more of, perhaps. But this hippy aesthetic isn’t simply just that. For this band, its an ingrained belief, and its more than evident in songs like Love Is All I Got, and never more so than in their warm dedication to deceased drummer Andrea Morongui, and the song written in the wake of his untimely passing, Lay Low. Insistent, driving and enthusing, its a song of living in the moment, human connections, unity and love. A tale of moving forward with spirits lifted, life in the present, and the singular importance of living in the now.

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Musically, Crystal Fighters are a unique and energetic proposition, effortlessly leaping from Basque influenced guitar rhythms, to calypso and Burundi drumming, lifting folk top end melodies, powerful house beats, tribal chanted choruses, hook laden and delightful throughout, again, the focus is on a celebration of that music and its power. This new album releases those energies, those beliefs maybe a little more than the others, and, while, ok,  Crystal Fighters are surely not in it for the lyrics, that fact is a mere distraction when faced with their live show, it simply doesn’t matter in the face of such skilfully mastered music, and such talented show people. The live environment is where this band are absolutely at the centre of their world, with the audience firmly and willingly in the palm of their hand throughout.

All Night is another highlight, a huge mass singalong, chant along, bounce along, the crowd delighting in every bounce, ecstatic at every tropical calypso twist, every rhythmic breakdown upping the party ante, absolutely infectious vibes bringing euphoria in waves throughout the room.

An extended version of Good Girls, a sparkling pop gem highlight of the Everything Is My Family album, brings even more sunshine to this dark, damp November night, lifting hearts, souls and minds with its effervescent party chorus, and fixing grins onto faces all around.

An inevitable end to the evening was brought about with a trip to the Plage, bringing with it, as it does, beach balls as bouncy as the bodies beneath them. A massively uplifted climax to a set of undbridled and unfettered joyous music, and another incredible Crystal Fighters family party.

Its easy for some to feel cynical and doubtful about the whole bare footed, bead wearing, flowers round the mic stand, love-can-change-the-world message behind so much of this band’s music, but truthfully, as the cruel and unforgiving times we live in seem to become ever darker on an almost daily basis, and the world turns away from us, a little chink of light here and there, some love, hope and positivity, can only be a good thing.

Right now, in these troubled, Trumpled times, we need music like this, and bands like Crystal Fighters more than ever.

Pictures by Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody

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