Kurt Cobain has a lot to answer for. Flannel shirts, quiet/loud dynamics (it’s nothing new godsake, Zeppelin did it) and the creation of a culture where it’s apparently embarrassing for a ‘high art’ band to be ashamed of playing their biggest hits. As with Nirvana, so with Animal Collective.
Song after song from the latest album was interspersed with judicious spatterings from the back catalogue – and when they actually brought these tracks out (such as the more Pop-like ‘Daily Routine’ from Merriweather Post Pavilion), the mood finally picked up; with people going from a semicatatonic sway to actual dancing. ‘Alvin Row’ from their debut formed something of a focal point to the show, its jarring psychedelic euphoria showing what it is that makes Animal Collective one of the best bands of the 21st century. The quality of the show itself was undeniably high. Sound levels were used to great effect to enhance the power of the vocal melodies, creating a pseudo-religious atmosphere with ethereal organ and Gregorian chant style harmonies. Trippy as fuck, in other words.
Harking back to the glory days of Pink Floyd’s psychedelic light shows, the back wall of the stage was constantly glowing multifarious colours and patterns. Totemic smiling faces stood behind the band, alternating from red to blue to appearing as if fishes were swimming against an azure background. There is no denying that the light show formed a crucial part of the ‘art’ of the show – it was, honestly, breathtaking.
Despite the quality of the music and the light show, however, there was something fundamentally missing from the night. My temptation is to blame it on the pretensions of the band’s set list, but whatever it was, it is evident that people simply weren’t feeling it – and if the Manchester crowd aren’t feeling it, then God help any other.