Animal Collective

New York-based band Animal Collective are infrequent visitors to the UK. The outstanding success of their 2009 album, “Merriweather Post Pavilion”, has propelled them from a cult band to near mainstream and so they can now draw big crowds. Tonight’s appearance in Manchester has been eagerly awaited by many. The venue is the Warehouse Project, a cavernous tin shed, which normally serves as a dance club, situated near Manchester United Football Club. Interestingly, given Animal Collective are essentially an experimental band, the audience for the gig is one of the most diverse I have seen for a while, particularly in terms of the age range.

Prince Rama

Having had a look at their videos on You Tube, I made sure I arrived in plenty of time to see, Prince Rama, who have been selected by Animal Collective to play support on the tour. Prince Rama are sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson from New York, together with bass player Christopher Burke. They might be described as an electronic psychedelic Hare Krishna band. If this sounds intriguing, then be assured that they really do sound really good and are extremely entertaining. The sound is built around synths and percussion and the vocals are delivered like chants.

Prince Rama

The show starts rather surreally with Taraka, draped in a white veil, being lifted by two security men, over the barrier and into the crowd. The long veil stretches out and forms a trail as she moves into the audience and starts the first song. The crowd are not sure what to make of it as she makes slightly spooky erotic movements. She is eventually lifted back onto the stage and adopts a more conventional stance behind a keyboard. Meanwhile Nimai energetically plays stand-up drums. This small ensemble makes a terrific and appealing racket for the next half hour.

Prince Rama

The gig ends with the sisters climbing back into the audience and frantically dancing, to the astonishment of the surrounding crowd. Their antics certainly make a welcome change to the usual egotistic lead singers and guitarists who regularly climb into the audience to get down among the kids and try to relive being Iggy Pop. Prince Rama are certainly worth the price of admission alone and their jangling psych sound is well suited to prepare us for the appearance of the main act.

Animal Collective

Animal Collective, have been around for over ten years, and the varying line-up has released a number of diverse albums. Animal Collective are deeply experimental and never remain in one musical place for long. Their new album, “Centipede Hz”, has been well-received, although it hasn’t achieved the plaudits heaped on “Merriweather Post Pavilion”. “Merriweather” was a masterpiece, with its cascading Beach Boys style vocals sung over sumptuous electronic sounds, and it brought the Collective near to the mainstream.

Animal Collective

“Centipede Hz”, sees the return of guitar and synth player Deakin, so that the four key band members are all back in the fold – Avey Tare, Deakin, Geologist and Panda Bear. Given the absence of one or other group members from the preceding albums, the coming together again of the foursome probably explains why the gig is substantially made up of tracks from the new album, to which they all contributed. Indeed, they play nine of its eleven tracks. The new album, and tonight’s show, is a return to a harder, more percussive and angular sound, compared to the relatively glacial “Merriweather”.

Animal Collective

Live the Collective really now appear to be a group, rather than a collection of geeks noodling with electronics. The instruments on stage, keyboards, guitars and drums also now look more conventional. And they really do sound powerful tonight, with the heavy beats and percussion – and it’s loud! The echoey sound of the vast Warehouse venue really seems to suit the music. The stage set-up and the lighting are also pretty visually impressive.

Animal Collective

For the first half of the show, the four band members are restrained, standing behind their instruments, but then things really start to hot-up and the musicians dance around to the beats, in the centre of the stage. Over the course of the last few numbers, the frantic and quickening heavy beats start to sound like some African tribal gathering, as the show reaches its climax. The three song encore includes the popular “My Girls” (which draws cheers), one of only three songs tonight from the “Merryweather” album. The show ends with the impressive “Amanita”, which is also the final track on “Centipede Hz”.

Overall it’s been a stunning evening, with powerful music, entertainment and impressive presentation.

Animal Collective Setlist: Rosie Oh; Today’s Supernatural; Wide Eyed; Applesauce; Honeycomb; Lion in a Coma; Moonjock; Pulleys; New Town Burnout; Monkey Riches; Brothersport; Peacebone. Encore: Cobwebs; My Girls; Amanita.

Photographs and Review by John Bentley

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