Sometimes at Animal Collective concerts, the crowds of drug-addled, face-painted, semi-nude kids really adds to the feeling you've wandered into a Grateful Dead concert circa 1970, only with neon glowsticks hoisted in the air instead of lighters, and tighter pants. But seeing the band at the second of two shows at Terminal 5 last night also provided another reminder of why Animal Collective are so much weirder than most of their indie contemporaries or jammy forefathers: despite being fully adept at writing pop song structures and melodies, the sounds they make seemingly have no connection to the instruments they're playing. It's really quite impressive and strange.
It's a phenomenon that Fluxblog's Matthew Perpetua was able to perfectly identify. Animal Collective's music might not be for everyone, but for the first time since they fully embraced synthesizers and processers on Merriweather Post Pavilion, the band have figured out a way to present their new sound in a live environment, AND have a little fun onstage. Avey Tare's unhinged Frank Black-esque yelps set the tone for the show, as the new noisier material played down the Beach Boys-style vocal harmonies that catapulted them to improbable success.
The recently released Centipede Hz garnered way less press than Merriweather, and certainly seemed like a reaction to the reverb-friendly production on their hit album; as a result, the songs on the latest one were buried in loads of noise, tape loops, vocal manipulation and harsh tones. But it's only because they're so good at songwriting that they can get away with that—because underneath the layers, the songs were always there. And many sound much better live: "Father Time" and "Mercury Man" groove in ways they couldn't on the record; "Monkey Riches" is the manic next step from "Brother Sport" it was always supposed to be; "Moonjock" reveals itself to be a ROCK song with a stomping beat; and freed from the overwhelming production, "Amanita" comes to life, its arabic-like riff slithering through the tune.
It can't be understated how vital returning member Deakin (aka Josh Dibb) is to their live shows—when we spoke to him in October, he told us: "I really like playing shows that are very physical...Most of these shows have been very sweaty shows, I mean that in a good way." Back during the Merriweather three-piece tour, the band was very limited in how much they moved around onstage, tethered to those synthesizers and processers—but now they have Deakin bopping around with a guitar to "Monkey Riches," bringing some much needed energy and sweatiness, even a little waving at the crowd.
Other highlights included the set opener (and b-side) "Crimson," which is a sexier, roomier song than anything that made Centipede; the dance-inducing one-two punch of "Brother Sport" and "Peacebone;" and the mass singalong on "My Girls." Check out the full setlist below.