ANIMAL COLLECTIVE @ OGDEN THEATRE | 9/9/13 There were some "gremlins" last night that plagued the stage for Animal Collective at the Ogden, but it didn't hamper the performance. If anything, it heightened it. In one moment of perfect synergy during "My Girls," the power dropped out for one of the choruses and the crowd took over. When that line was over, Deakin told us the power had gone out, and the song resumed without really missing a beat. Rather than stopping and making an adjustment here and there with the gear, the rest of the band rolled forward seamlessly.
The stage was set up like a giant mouth, with eight giant teeth at the ceiling like an overbite, and six at the stage level (three on each side). Each of these was a smaller projection screen that emitted light, at times strobing. Behind Geologist and Panda Bear, there was a larger projection screen with what looked like a multi-colored, patterned tendril holding it in place while another arced partially over the other like some sort of strange crab pincer.
The projections massively enhanced the visual experience of the show. Few, if any, of the patterns and color arrangements repeated from song to song. The whirl of colors and sometimes abstract, sometimes vivid and detailed images perfectly complemented the music. The show could've easily been adapted to a much larger venue, but as it was, the experience was richer without the diffusion of distance.
Drawing mostly from its recent albums, Animal Collective gave us a fully realized performance that also featured some of the newer material from Centipede Hz, including a kaleidoscopic yet emotionally raw and moving take on "Applesauce."
The radio station switching sounds at the beginning of "Wide Eyed" also served as an apt counterpoint to the galloping breeziness of the rest of the song. The song was tribal, hypnotic and tonally rich, recalling an evolved mutant expression similar to what the Mission UK had in the late '80s, only turned inside out. And when the tune came apart at the end, it really felt like you were seeing the kind of psychedelia that most other rock bands attaching themselves to psychedelic rock today aren't attempting. It truly disoriented the senses by breaking the standard rhythms and pulling apart layers of sound.
One of the true high points of the show came with "Peacebone," when Avey Tare came away from his guitar and keyboards and fronted the band, as a dense, seemingly 8-bit synth sound flooded the room, and a steady rhythm punctuated and accented the song. It could have come off as a little playful and silly, but the serious subject matter of the song really came through, and as a result, the tune, one of the more overtly gimmicky songs from Strawberry Jam, took on much larger dimensions and hit a bit harder.
The set ended with the brightly expansive "Brother Sport," which somehow seemed more dense and intense than the studio version. The band didn't make us wait long before coming back on. Earlier in the night, the guys apologized for not having been back in so long, and this show had already more than made up for any of those concerns already. But when the opening lines of "The Purple Bottle" began with "I've got the key to the kingdom and the devil can't do me no harm," everybody cheered loudly. At the end, when the song sounds like a cousin to the end of the Who's "Baba O'Riley," Avey Tare repeatedly cried out with a feral enthusiasm, and more than a few people in the audience joined him.
White Magic got things going earlier in the evening with Mira Billotte performing alone with a variety of instruments and reverb effects that she controlled on stage that gave her voice the appropriate level of volume and resonance. Her songs sounded like chants from another era in human civilization, and her vibrantly haunting voice recalled Nico, circa The Marble Index or Desertshore.
At times Billotte's voice rang out with a timeless and earthy quality coloring her subtle and well-controlled vibrato. It was as though she were singing in one of those ancient holy caverns in the depths of Cappadocia or in a cathedral. Accompanied by a hand drum, an accordion, which she played and perhaps some samples, Billotte wasn't to the taste of some of the crowd but plenty of people vocally expressed their appreciation for Billotte's quietly but resonantly beautiful tunes.
Personal Bias: I got into these guys a bit around the time of Feels because of the inventive soundscaping and songwriting, and then even more so with Centipede Hz. Random Detail: Ran into Peter Goodwin and Carson Pelo of The Kevin Costner Suicide Pact, Isaac Rivera formerly of Mehko and the Ocean Birds, Kellie Palmblad formerly of Eyes Caught Fire and currently Water Bear and rock and roll photographer at large Mike McGrath at the show. By the Way: There was a girl at the show for whom this was her first concert. Hopefully she was able to get her vinyl copy of Feels signed.
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