Animal Collective have long been known to dazzle and confuse audiences during their live performances, but nothing really could have prepared the crowd at Paramount for their Centipede Hz tour opener last Tuesday night. The stage was set in dazzling form, shaped with light up teeth above and surrounding, with a twirling collection of psychedelic tentacles spiraling into a massive light screen behind. Visually alone, the show was worth the ticket price. But combined with Animal Collective’s surprisingly approachable set, and a fantastic opening set by UK band Micachu & The Shapes, Tuesday night was a delightful trip through a wonderland only Animal Collective could dream up.
Micachu & The Shapes may sound like an odd booking for an opening for Animal Collective. After all, only a couple years ago, they were touring alongside the likes of the xx. But ever astounding, Micachu threw an awesome party. Their tunes mix vintage British invasion rock with noisy, syncopated indie rock tendencies, that end up creating an experience entirely unique to their band. Their set steadily built towards more accessible material as the night went on. I’m sure as the night ended, more than a couple people went home and gave their fantastic record Never a listen or two.
Micachu & The Shapes:
As lights went down and Animal Collective entered, the room became a dizzying blur of light and animation. Images and video projected onto the tentacles in the back made them appear to shift and move and change shape. Blinding light poured out into the audience and the silhouettes of the four members moved across the stage. Light up teeth began to blink as the members began to create a wall of sound, loops, and textures at their stations. Wrapped in keyboards, Avey Tare took stage right, sitting down for the majority of the show. Stage left, Deakin stood towering above anything near him, guitar in hand, occasionally messing with the samplers at his station. In the back, Panda Bear manned perhaps the most obscure drum kit the Paramount has seen in some time. The kit had no snare, but it definitely had a beaded gourd and numerous congos. Finally, Geologist strapped on his trusty headlamp and manned an endless array of noisemakers - some he played with his feet.
The wall of sound transformed slowly into the introduction to Merriweather Post Pavilion track “Also Frightened”. One of the mellower cuts from the record, it seemed an odd choice for an opener. But the crowd went wild nonetheless, knowing that the band was just preparing us for the wonders to come. Slightly more energetic, the band chose “Applesauce”, one of the odder cuts from Centipede Hz, showing off Avey’s wide range of vocal emotion on stage. But with the third song, Animal Collective dove off the deep end and dragged us into a world of sound all unto themselves. “Wide Eyed” is an arpeggiating kaleidoscope on the record, but live, with heavier drums and the reverb on Deakin’s vocals turned all the way to space echo, the track has never sounded more epic. After this, the band held on to this wild energy with Centipede single “Today’s Supernatural”, and Merriweather tribal dancer “Lion In A Coma”. By then, the crowd was lit with Animal Joy. The band stuck mostly to newer tracks - the “Honeycomb” single made an appearance, along with most of the new record. But after “Monkey Riches”, the band let loose the Merriweather favorite “Brothersport”, followed seamlessly by Strawberry Jam opener “Peacebone”.
As the band exited, the crowd needed a rest. But they persisted with endless applause, and after a few minutes, the band returned for a well-deserved encore and chose a Centipede rendition of Merriweather single “My Girls”. The crowd was delirious, and even after the song realizing so much attention that the band hadn’t necessarily wanted when the song was released, they embraced the love present in the room and played it like it was the first time. Closing with “Amanita”, the band bid the crowd goodbye with one last wave of noise, light, and color. It’s overwhelming, and kind of blinds everyone, but hey - that’s what Animal Collective is all about at the end of the day. They are a blinding wave of noise, light, color, and most of all, love and hope. More than anything else, this realization was most evident tonight.