Animal Collective at First Avenue, 9/11/13
Photo By Erik Hess
With White Magic and Matthew St-Germain
First Avenue, Minneapolis
September 11, 2013
Animal Collective brought their neon-drenched electro-psych pop to a packed First Avenue last night. But for a band that plays such playful, whimsical music, AnCo's live show proved rather insular, cold, and distant, with their songs forming a wild background soundtrack for the good times everyone in the club was having, rather than being the focus of the fun itself.
The 95-minute set was a make-up date following a cancellation back in March. It featured a dramatic, colorful Krull-inspired stage design created by Avey Tare's sister, Abby Portner, as well as a string of imaginative songs drawn mainly from their recent record, Centipede Hz.
The set started out a bit sluggishly, as "Father Time" labored to find a reliable rhythm and pace, and even the typically jubilant "Lion in a Coma" was bogged down by an inconsistent tribal beat and wayward electronic flourishes. But even if you weren't drawn in by the music, the striking stage set was a veritable cornucopia of fluorescent colors and spiraling splashes of bright, colorful lights and images. It certainly added a madcap theatricality to the spectacle unfolding on stage, but sadly the band's meandering sound didn't quite match the brazen artistic originality unfolding behind them.
A slowly building version of "Today's Supernatural" ignited the set somewhat, with a rousing, cacophonous finish getting the crowd moving around a bit. But throughout the performance, there wasn't much of an easy entry point into Animal Collective's typically dense music, no real hooks to latch onto or decipherable lyrics to identify with. In fact, the band seems to try and avoid any of the outdated conventions that plague much of today's pop music, and those aims are certainly respectable.
And on record AnCo certainly sound inspired and boldly experimental, but those traits get lost a bit in a live setting, where one song fluidly blends into the next without much of a change in tone or tenor, eliciting the same hazy response from the crowd -- neither rapturous nor all that invested, just merely there.
Photos By Erik Hess
Things did pick up a bit towards the end of the main set, as a particularly exuberant take on "Moonjock" got the main floor moving in time to the song's thunderous beats. Avey Tare then addressed the crowd affectionately (while also alluding to having to cancel the March show due to his intense case of strep throat), "We've played here a bunch of times, but it feels like so long since we've been here. We really like playing here, especially in this place."
A rousing, hypnotic run through of "What Would I Want? Sky" followed those warm words of praise, and the band only built on that momentum with a spirited version of "My Girls," which got everyone on the floor bouncing along to the beat and the whole club singing along to the hopeful chorus.
After apologizing again for having to cancel their earlier show and making us wait so long to see them, Animal Collective then eased into the encore with a lumbering take on the somber, slow B-side "Crimson." But the fuse was once again ignited with a forceful version of "The Purple Bottle," which turned First Ave into an untamed dance party, as everyone lost themselves in the song's driving rhythm. But sadly, that boundless spirit and connection with the audience wasn't present throughout the earlier moments of the show, which drifted by rather innocuously.
Photos By Erik Hess
AnCo consistently make imaginative, inspired studio albums, and they have clearly tried to make their live shows match that same inventive quality (this show was a marked improvement from their disappointing and disconnected 2009 First Avenue performance), but on this night at least, they just seemed to get things only half right.
Personal Bias: While I truly love some of Animal Collective's albums, their live shows have never really moved me in any way. This was my third time seeing them, and I'll probably just stick to their records from here on out.
The Crowd: While the March show was a fast sell-out, this rescheduled gig wasn't quite a full house (some tickets opened up at the door prior to showtime). But the main floor was filled with kids lost in AnCo's blissed out sounds.
Overheard In The Crowd: "Did we accidentally step into a King Crimson concert?" "I wish!"
Random Notebook Dump: About half of the crowd looked totally into the show, while the other half appeared bored out of their minds.
I Think I Can
Lion In A Coma
Did You See The Words
What Would I Want? Sky
The Purple Bottle
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.