The Ritz, Manchester
The odds are stacked against this gig a bit. It’s fair to say Animal Collective’s most recent waxing ‘Painting with..’ has had mixed reviews – indeed it’s received an enormous shoeing from some quarters.
Like Artie Fufkin ‘I go back with these guys’. I caught on around the time of their 2005 album ‘Feels’ which I saw them ‘promote’ by playing an astonishing live set consisting mostly of tracks that would eventually make up the follow up ‘Strawberry Jam’ and other tracks that I’ve never heard them play since. I later saw them one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen (in the ballroom of the old Co-Op building in Manchester of all places), again playing largely unheard material which would become their breakthrough album ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’. The success of that record, and heavy radio rotation for ‘FloriDada’ means that while AC are fair game for a kicking from the music press, they can also sell out the 1,500 capacity Ritz -in spite of the fact that they are ultimately the same idiosyncratic and downright bloody weird band I saw 10 years ago.
Support band GFOTY are the sort of band that if I was Alexis Petridis writing in The Guardian I would feel compelled to get into (and a mate of mine is raving about them too) but I’m not – so I’ll tell you what I hear is squeaky cheerleader chants over the top of what sounds like a toddler remixing kids TV theme tunes from Nickelodeon on his iPhone – it’s very arch and I can tell there is some satirical intent amid the deliberately cheesy, Europap racket they make but it’s not for me – I’m sure it’s very clever stuff (and I suspect it’s linked to what AC are currently into) but if I’m lucky I’ve got another 30-40 years on the planet and I don’t intend to spend another minute of that with this lot.
Animal Collective arrive behind three podiums amid a typically decorative stage which looks like Kraftwerk have crash landed on the set of an 1980s Saturday morning kids TV show. Each have a bank of modular synths, samplers and various knobs to twiddle (no guitars this time around) and on a riser behind them is guest drummer Jeremy Hyman who is a revelation – an absolute rock-solid powerhouse who drives the songs to new heights and really ought to have been drafted in to lift the current LP’s overly processed tracks up a notch on record.
The set is drawn almost entirely from ‘Painting With..’ – however as I was hoping -the band breathe life into that rather sterile record helped in no small part by the live percussion and sheer conviction and energy the band inject into the songs. Something overlooked about the band is that they can really sing – the vocals very much have an early 70s Beach Boys tone to them (the hearty holler of Carl & Brian Wilson rather than Love & Jardine) with some dazzling vocal interplay – and while the aim of the new record was to make short, sharp, pop songs they benefit from the band cutting loose and going mad on the array of electronic toys at their disposal.
The audience reaction is fantastic, and it’s one of those gigs where the band and crowd work together to lift things up to another level. When they do dip into the back catalogue it’s pretty deep cuts that get pulled out (nothing from previous album Centipede Hz, one of the less immediate tracks from Merriweather, 2 from the underrated ‘Feels’ and a very old song Alvin Row’) however the tracks are given a new lease of life and it’s clear they’ve been chosen specifically for that purpose. The slow burning, dreamlike encore of ‘Bees’ and ‘Loch Raven’ reminds me exactly of why I got into this band in the first place.
Very enthusiastic. Average age considerably younger than a lot of gigs I go to. There is no moshing but a happy grooving throng and as I said earlier – they played their part in making this gig special.
It made me think..
Animal Collective should probably loosen up on the next record and no tworry about trying to make concise, coherent songs which they are quite incapable of doing but they’re very good at getting busy with the synths and the machines – they’re at their best tonight, and get the best cheers when they get weird.