The Crüxshadows @ O2 Islington Academy

with Alter Red, Kommand and Kontrol & Global Citizen
Review by Victoria Fenbane

Global Citizen open tonight’s proceedings extremely early (20 mins after 6pm doors). This probably hasn’t upset too many of London’s regular darkwave gig goers, because GC supported Seabound at another Flag Promotions event the previous weekend- meaning they probably haven’t missed anything they haven’t already seen. Despite the empty space in front of the stage (Islington Academy can be an unforgiving venue); they put on a solid performance to the sparse crowd. They are good and function well as a warm up for tonight’s festivities; however they are in danger of being over-exposed to the London regulars, and ending up as a band people won’t make the effort for, when they accept yet another support slot for the same promoter.

Kommand+Kontrol pop up on stage after an extremely quick changeover. Time is precious tonight, due to the venue’s 10pm curfew. K+K sound immediately different to this reviewer’s ears, compared to a previous performance which received a less than favourable review… Most noticeably there is guitar, meaty industrial Ministry guitar, and it sounds good! Lyrics are still sparse; shouted rather than sung, however this fits the music.

Previous recollections are of a more experimental, fairly static act, who were not so easy on the ear, except to fans of sparse, percussion heavy dark electro. It must be said that the guitar sound dates the music a little, however this doesn’t matter when it is not only contributing to great songs but it is not a constant feature of their output. The set also includes songs of a more electronic sound, which, while not being familiar with their material I am guessing it is an upgraded version of the aforementioned more experimental K+K material. Very good it is too and encourages me to check out their recorded material.

Stand out song of the set is ‘Violent Or Gentle’ and it deservedly received the most crowd interaction – with Dave pushing the microphone up to the front row , forcing them to repeat the hook line of the song – just as well they all knew it as it could have been misheard as something else!…This performance by K+K has forced me to reassess my feelings about their music, because what I heard tonight is interesting, less experimental and more structured. The variety of the set shows talent. One to make an effort to catch at future gigs.

Alterred have accompanied headline act The Crüxshadows throughout the UK leg of their tour, and are no strangers to London’s scene, having played numerous gigs since their formation in 2007/2008 (however there have been frequent line-up changes since then). Looks always make the greatest initial impression, and Alterred are guilty of perhaps relying too much on their gimmicks to pull a crowd.

The pretty boy drummer is more of a stage accessory than a musician. Two ‘living dolls’ stand immobile , apart from a few shifts of position throughout the set. This is Alterred’s trademark gimmick, which always causes intrigue within the audience, however after seeing it a few times the magic fades. Thanks to these tricks it is a visually interesting performance, but one which wears a thin after a few songs. Once the gimmicks are exhausted the attention moves to the music itself.

Mikey has a distinctive vocal style, which can’t help but stir up memories of his previous creation D.U.S.T. This is in no way a bad thing, but it may prevent seasoned fans of the scene hearing Alterred as something fresh. All the songs are mid-tempo and nothing immediately stands out, or is overly catchy enough to take home as an earworm. There is something missing from their music, which makes them hard to get into. It almost sounds unfinished. Despite this opinion they have lots of fans, so if it works good on ‘em. However there doesn’t seem to be much movement from the crowd tonight – maybe this is due to the aforementioned tempo of songs or an audience suffering gimmick fatigue…

The energy in the now crowded room has noticeably dropped during Alterred’s performance but there was no need despair because the Crüxshadows always deliver – and deliver they did: In trademark Rouge style, he begins the set at the back of the venue amongst the fans. Despite this being at least a 12 year old trick, it never fails to catch out a few of those assembled.

Unfortunately his legendary (and security despised) spiderman venue climbing antics are very much curtailed, due to the functional structure of the Islington Academy, but he still gets amongst the crowd enough to keep the avid fans more than happy. This man is all about the actual ‘contact’ with the followers and they love him for it.

For an act that hasn’t released a new album for 4 years, there is a surprisingly high percentage of material from the new and at that point unreleased album ‘As the Dark Against My Halo’. Apart from a You Tube album sampler uploaded a few days previous, providing a tantalizing glimpse, the new release has been pretty watertight as far as leaks are concerned. Despite this the crowd take exceptionally well to the new material. Not letting up their enthusiastic dancing and even joining in with the lyrics where they can.

There is no denying that the new material fits the CXS formula of structured anthemic songs, filled with hooks, immediate sing-a-long chorus lines, stomping beats, electric violin and a strong synth sound throughout. Despite these songs being very fresh to the ears of a few and completely new to others, it is immediately apparent that they are also *good*. The fans are excited about this great new album they can’t yet have; therefore they lap up every second of what they are hearing. Rouge himself tells those assembled how proud he is of the upcoming release and that it contains some of his best work – an obvious plug to shift CDs it but we all believe him. And really want that album!

The gig ran along expected CXS lines. The girls danced, Rouge got in amongst the sweaty punters and the band played perfectly. Stand out moments for me included new song ‘Halo’, which in addition to its dirty electro sound being an unexpected and welcome addition to the CXS sound, was also accompanied by some rather ungothic ass shaking from the (as ever body perfect) dancers. Leaving me unable to listen to ‘Halo’ without thinking of bobbing tutus! Another highlight was a discovery behind another of the old gimmicks – the jig during Deception. After years of hoping to be picked to perform the jig with Rouge I gave up believing the lucky punter was pre-selected. This myth was busted after he picked a friend. Nice touch with the fans.

The gig ended with the predictable stage invasion to Marilyn, My Bitterness – a song which they are probably best known for and despised by some at the same time. (Rouge jokes it is destined to be his epitaph). It is a triumphant end to one hell of a gig and well worth the wait for their return. Was definitely sold on ‘As the Dark Against My Halo’, which has been released as of writing.

There are those who complain about Rouge and co’s predictable gimmick laden performances, but it just wouldn’t be a Crüxshadows gig without it. Hearing the opening chords and knowing what to expect for the next 5 minutes of that song, makes the fans feel connected to the band. There is no other band on the darkwave scene which has such close a relationship with the punters. They are made to feel special, in addition to the band’s lyrics making them feel as if Rouge is there fighting with them against their demons.

Once the house lights come on the sweaty and very happy fans file to Slimelight for some contact time with their hero. The poor guy looked knackered from an energetic performance and hectic touring schedule, but took the time to pose for photos and listen to every tipsy fan who rambled at him. CXS not only work hard on their music, they work hard for their fans and they love them for it.