While the rest of the city ferried their way to Toronto Island for this weekend’s Virgin Festival (Torontoist will have more on that later!), art-rock darlings Animal Collective stopped by at the Phoenix (early!) last night on their world tour for their latest album, Strawberry Jam.
After an Alec Empire-like opening set of apocalyptic industrialism by Eric Copeland (from Black Dice), the boys hit the stage. Contrary to audience scuttlebutt, Animal Collective did not sport fox outfits or animal masks, but the feral influence was there; lead vocalist Avery Tare kicked off the performance with caws and coos while Panda Bear and Geologist built up a hypnotic atmosphere. The highlight of the evening came early, with the band launching into their euphorically adolescent new single “Peacebone.” Avery Tare delighted the audience with his delirious dancing and throat-shredding squawls while the stage lit up with rainbow LED lights in a strangely ’80s-like atmosphere.
Animal Collective has had a long fascination with tribalism, evident in their roster of repetitive beats, call-and-response rhythms, and ritual chanting. The result is a delirious paganism that is not necessarily at its best indoors in a night club. Their droning, free-floating songs that flow seamlessly into one another are perfect for enjoying around a campfire in the woods. But a live audience needs novelty, and in spite of the Collective’s impressive energy, a few people literally fell into a trance, staring vacantly at the stage.
Still, highlights from the new album and old favourites periodically roused everyone from their hypnosis. Familiar stand-bys, like the overwhelmingly happy “Who Could Win a Rabbit,” had the typically dour Toronto audience pogo-ing like little children. And make no mistake: Strawberry Jam is fantastic. New music on display included the kaleidoscopic “Fireworks” and the video-arcade ephemera of “#1.” Even after the three-song encore, the entire show was over at the early hour of 9:00 p.m., but everyone left with the feeling of having already enjoyed a successful night out.
Strawberry Jam hits stores this Tuesday, September 11.
Photo of Animal Collective in Boston by Jason Bergman.