If Animal Collective ran the country, I’d learn the anthem

by Bob Pember

Last Sunday night, Animal Collective performed at The Commodore and once more filled the room with their well-seasoned symphony of noise. Avey Tare, Geologist, and Panda Bear are at the top of their game on stage now that their studio work is receiving more of the attention it deserves. Their most recent release Merriweather Post Pavilion reached #13 on the Billboard charts, marking a new high-point for the band. Their albums have become more polished, while progressively changing to an electronic style, and their live show is practically seamless now that they have the confidence of being freak-folk masters of synthetic sound. The enthusiasm and involvement of the crowd was proof enough that there’s an invested fan base that’s loyal to this specific noise.

The dance floor was jam-packed with twenty-somethings looking for the best in synthesized beats and melodic wailing. It felt like everyone in the audience eagerly trusted the band and where they wanted to take the show. Normally when I’m at a concert, I have a list of songs in my head that I want the band to play, but with the Animal Collective I was excited about whatever they wanted to do. The stage was set up with Geologist and Panda Bear at either end, both surrounded by synthesizers and samplers, and Avey Tare in the middle with drums, an electric guitar, and his own electronics to hop amongst when he wasn’t manning the microphone. Above the entire band was a giant white ball about six feet in diameter, suspended from the ceiling and acting as a screen for the various projections accompanying the music. The lighting and projections created a supporting colour scheme on stage that completed the layers of sound with eerie precision—it’s was as if the music gave birth to the visuals.

This tour features a mixture of new songs and past selections from their earlier stages re-invented for their current electronic configuration. The three performers are experts at building their songs piece by piece until a full structure is realized. There’s an architectural aspect to their music that they don’t allow to be rushed—the song that you know from the album is achieved eventually by dutiful yet organic construction of the musical layers: it can take up to five minutes before you realize you’re listening to one of your favourite songs.  They take you further than other bands tend to because you see the life of each piece. Older songs such as “Who Could Win a Rabbit”, an entirely acoustic song from their 2004 album Sung Tongs, showed the same vitality performed live as the songs from Merriweather Post Pavilion.

It’s refreshing to have this much confidence in a band—so often after a few albums a band will lose their edge and begin to flounder, releasing albums that sound similar to their earlier and popular work: essentially pacing around a worn-out path. Animal Collective is crushing any sliver of stagnancy by maintaining their constant, aggressively driven creativity that continues to keep fans excited about what’s next. Their concert on Sunday was another solid performance that left me waiting with devotion for their future contributions.

Animal Collective played at The Commodore Ballroom on May 24.

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