Animal Collective has lost my interest as a live band. Merriweather Post Pavilion is, of course, one of my favorite albums of 2009, but a third straight snoozer from the live incarnation requires me to reconsider their abilities as an engaging stage presence. The problem mainly lies with the live presentation of electronic music in general. Watching three guys bob their heads up and down while triggering samples does not stir excitement.
Comparing AC’s live show to other bands who have engaged audiences while playing electronic elements in their songs is inevitable. Battles, for example, spend much of their show playing real instruments and sampling rhythms live on stage and going back to these sounds and manipulating them while building upon an organic composition. That’s exciting! Grizzly Bear, although not an electronic band, has bassist/producer Chris Taylor sampling all sorts of wind instruments live and building upon them as though accompanied by a full orchestra. That’s exciting!
During parts of Animal Collective’s set, Panda Bear did pound live drums and Avey Tare did hold his guitar. However, both instruments seemed more like props than important components of the live versions of their songs. I could easily sense from the crowd that a collective interest was lost about mid-way through the set, as side conversations tended drown out a lot of the sound. Maybe that’s just the product of a large outdoor venue filled with indie hipsters who do not really like the music they claim to. It could also be a result of unyielding 10-minute jam sessions of “Fireworks” or “Daily Routine” that embrace segues and ignore all elements of song structure.
This was my favorite live performance by the band, and Avery Tare seemed especially excited to be playing in Brooklyn. Highlights included Strawberry Jam standout “Chores,” and “Lion in a Coma” from MPP. Unfortunately, the experience did not support the notion “third time’s a charm.” Setlist follows:
What Would I Want Sky
You Could Win a Rabbit
Lion in a Coma