Friday, May 29, 2009

Concert Review: Animal Collective at The Fox in Oakland, 5/26/09

To catch an Animal Collective show these days is to see a band in transition. While the band slowly garnered a devoted following playing weird, challenging, noisy music, it was the duo of Feels and Sung Tongs in 2005 which really expanded the band's sonic palate, their critical appraisal and most dramatically, their fan base. With Strawberry Jam and this year's Merriweather Post Pavillion record, Animal Collective has fine tuned their pop sensibilities,without completely abandoning their knack for experimentation.

In that vein, the band's current tour is unlike any other of their previous ones. The set lists include a heavy dose of songs from their current album, with a few appearances from past records as well. This stands in stark contrast to the Animal Collective tradition of trying out almost exclusively new material on the road, offering a preview of how the next record will sound. On their current tour, the band is following the more conventional touring protocol of featuring songs from the current album for sale. Also, AC has sharpened up the live presentation: songs are tighter, vocals sung more tunefully and with greater conviction.

Perhaps appropriately coinciding with their greater success, broader reach and larger scale of the tour, the band played (and sold out, on a Tuesday night) the recently renovated, ornately styled Fox Theater. The band's performance of a few songs from MWP, especially the seriously catchy, sequencer and 80's synth driven 'Summer Clothes' (the Letterman clip from Tuesday night's youtube post was this tune), drew an enthusiastic crowd response. Not quite as enthusiastic as when they played the infectious lead single, 'My Girls,' and the Baltimore club music tribute, 'Brother Sport' as the last encore. Hearing the beautiful 'Fireworks' as well as a cool re-working of 'Leaf House' from Sung Tongs were also highlights much appreciated by the crowd. If I were to nitpick a bit, the only aspects of the show I was not too crazy about were the occasionally repetitive, drone like feel to a few of the songs, as well as a muddy aspect to the sound in the venue. It's a huge, cavernous theater not geared towards acoustics, especially performances which involve multiple loops as part of a dense soundscape. That having been said, the group seemed to balanced their more pop, melodic side with the avante weirdness which has endeared them to so many. Animal Collective has come a long way over the past decade or so. And as always with this group, I look forward to seeing what happens next.


Anonymous said...

The drone like feel is Animal Collective live, or at least it used to be. It's kind of a shame they abandoned most of the really experimental vibe they used to do in favor of a more straightforward show. But then again i think MPP is their weakest effort, so what do I know.

Joe Manekin said...

Guess I missed the drone phase. Last time I saw them live it was positively Here Comes the Indian like. Frantic and noisy.

Which album(s) of theirs are your favorites?