Animal Collective is a weird band. People who listen to them extensively basically worship at their alter, but for most they’re an odd, esoteric band. The perceived quality of Animal Collective’s sold out show on 2/22, accompanied by New York-based rap group Ratking, depends entirely on your previous knowledge of Animal Collective’s illustrious 17 year career.
For die-hard fans, the concert was incredible. They played “Alvin Row” from their 2000 debut album, Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished and two songs from their 2005 album, Feels. Combined with eight songs from their newest release, Painting With (which has gotten tons of unfair reviews!), the set list was perfect for those who knew Animal Collective’s discography well.
But for casual fans or fans that hadn’t really listened to Animal Collective extensively beforehand (the plane of existence I occupy), it could get a bit intimidating. Some of the songs were pretty terrible to listen to for the first time; often they sounded like a wall of sound that stretched the definition of “song.” Musically, they were all very interesting and dense, but they weren’t necessarily that fun to listen to.
Even without being sonically pleasing 100% of the time, the light show and stage design was always interesting. The lights were intricate and coordinated very well (to a trippy degree), and each member stood in front of an off-putting and bizarre sculpture. In this way, the set design and atmosphere were just as bizarre as the music.
Panda Bear, Avey Tare, and Geologist, for all their strangeness, did perform better than expected. The vocals weren’t incredible, but they translated better to the live venue than anticipated. The touring drummer, Jeremy Hyman, wasn’t tasked with too much but was one of the best aspects of the show. With Panda Bear, Avey Tare, and Geologist standing basically motionless at their stations, he, in addition to the occasionally moshing crowd, provided some much-needed energy.
Overall, the concert was quite the experience one way or the other. For die-hard fans accustomed to Animal Collective’s ever-changing weirdness, it was a spiritual experience. For the unaccustomed layperson, it was an odd experience and a showcase of the bizarre nature of their music. For better or for worse, it was 100% Animal Collective.