Talking to someone I hadn’t met in a few years before going in to catch the start of Dent May’s Animal Collective support slot, I had a moment of very mild epiphany. ‘This should be good’, I said. ‘Yeah’, my friend replied. Standard enough so far. ‘Have you seen them before?” I asked, trying to feel out the level of depth I’d be able to go into with my pre-gig hopes and wishes. ‘No, but I’m looking forward to this. Have you?’ ‘Yeah, it’s my fifth time,’ I said with all the pride of a Dead Head in the 70s telling a first-timer that he remembers back when Jerry Garcia’s eyes were actually capable of focusing on anything in the physical realm.
It gets obscured because I’m friends with a lot of people who’ve seen them as many times and more, but that is a bit weird, isn’t it? Or is it? I didn’t notice until after the gig when I started seeing reviews (or actual live-from-the-event Twitter posts) which claimed that there was “something missing”.
I didn’t see it. Or more accurately, I suppose, I didn’t not see it.
Maybe by seeing Animal Collective a few times in the past, I’ve become accustomed to the things that might be disappointing. The band don’t really engage with the specific setting they’re in, beyond saying “thanks!” – learned this at Oxegen 2006 on the Feels tour when they were still a four-piece. They spend a lot of time improvising, doing reworkings of songs or playing new songs – learned this at Oxegen and again at Tripod. Sometimes the sound-play can just sound like mush, and I’m convinced that they sync samples wrong sometimes too. It seems like Geologist doesn’t do anything. They don’t really play ‘Peacebone’.
This is the best band in the world, bar none. And once you’re not expecting to see the Kaiser Chiefs, I can’t see how seeing them could possibly be a bad thing. Friday night was the best experience I’ve had with them so far.
Took up a position about fifteen people back, on Panda Bear’s side, to see what it’s like to go to a gig and NOT worry about being jostled out of your forward location by some self-satisfied goons who assume that they’re the only people who want to be at the front. Stopped worrying about what was coming next. Didn’t have the third pint that makes the wee impossible to hold. And just stood there and got lost in the sound.
((go check out the full set of photos at My Left Ventricle, they probably give a better sense of what it was like than any of the reviews including this one.))
Weird weird ‘Winter’s Love’ was first, and it made as little sense as it did in London, except that the actually sample of ‘Winter’s Love’ that plays halfway through was twice as long. But then we got to the meat of the affair – ‘Also Frightened’, ‘My Girls’, ‘Summertime Clothes’, ‘Guys Eyes’, ‘Daily Routine’. Merriweather Post Pavillion, like a (psychedelic) debutante parading in the unabashed glow of youth and universal acclaim. Some of this stuff really is unparalleled.
‘Summertime Clothes’ released the tensile energy in the (clearly Merriweather [fair-weather?] heavy) crowd by converting it to kinesis. ‘Guys Eyes’ was chaotic genius, taking the let’s-just-both-sing-a-song-at-the-same-time approach to its outer extremes. The outro to ‘Daily Routine’ repeated long after the crowd was willing to humour it, until the words became nothing and the repetition in itself became the hypnotic point.
What else? A version of ‘Fireworks-Essplode’ which wasn’t ‘Fireworks-Essplode’ at all, but ‘Fireworks-Lablakey Dress’, possibly improving on the impossibly brilliant live ‘Fireworks’ of the Whelans gig last May by adding about four minutes of will-he-won’t-he guitar loops before the second section kicks back in.
A ‘Leaf House’ which made at least some sort of sense. A ‘Slippi’ which I will admit felt the absence of the rainbow strip lights keenly – the projector ball was trippy, but you need rainbow strobes for certain moments, and that was one. But then ‘Brother Sport’, which is the uncle of all songs, and which I would be happy to listen to on repeat for the rest of eternity.
I thought the gig was a tiny bit better than the London gig I saw in January, just because there was so little chaff. There really wasn’t any more than cursory sonic messing-about. The set-list was nearly as good as could be hoped for, barring a pro wrestling-esque return of Deakin through the crowd to assist with ‘Purple Bottle’, ‘Who Could Win A Rabbit?’ and ‘We Tigers’. The slight anti-climax of ‘In The Flowers’ live was avoided by avoiding ‘In The Flowers’.
This was as good an Animal Collective gig as you could expect to see. Something which either eludes people or doesn’t convince them is that Animal Collective are just three guys who fuck around with samples and try to have fun with their sounds in a live setting. Nothing changed when the audience multiplied beyond recognition. Nobody really ever looks up from what they’re doing, but that’s because they’re in the music, and that’s something that makes it even more appealing. Because at an Animal Collective gig, you’re not being played to, you’re attending something which will be in its own way slightly unique, and by being there, you’re part of the music. As pretentious as that sounds, I do actually believe it.
Of course, in terms of sampler-gazing improv, it was nothing on the last Tripod gig. For length of set it didn’t compete with London. For intimacy-via-proximity, it wasn’t a patch on Whelans. For a knock-you-sideways stunning performance of ‘We Tigers’, it wasn’t a match for Oxegen. But on the whole… best yet, I think.