Animal Collective’s sold-out performance at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club on March 15th was a hypnotic stroll through their latest release, Time Skiffs, as well as a likely preview of what the quartet has in store for the future.
The group has an extensive history of treating live performances as a sonic laboratory for material in active development. Their tour in support of 2005’s Feels often featured more material that would debut on 2007’s Strawberry Jam than their recent release and after releasing Strawberry Jam, the subsequent tours regularly saw material from that album overshadowed by songs that would eventually appear on 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion.
Tours in support of 2012’s Centipede Hz and 2015’s Painting With saw a shift in their modus operandi as they chose a more conventional path that emphasized recently released material on a nightly basis. Their performance in Boston featured the majority of the tracks off their current release, but what was even more exciting was that unreleased material was more heavily represented than the music from any other part of their back catalog.
The unreleased tunes flowed steadily in between the tracks off Time Skiffs but had a looser structure to them which is consistent with the vibe of many now-classic songs performed live prior to their release on an album.
The set opened with arguably the best song off the new album, “Cherokee,” a lengthy tune that vibes like the musical incarnation of hallucinogenic trails, performed as an opener for the first time this tour and for only the second time ever.
A third of the way into their 90-minute set, they performed their latest single, “Prester John,” and shortly thereafter got the most visceral response from the audience to that point with a run-through, “In the Flowers,” off Merriweather Post Pavilion.
Noah “Panda Bear” Lennox spent the entire night behind a traditional drum kit although in addition to vocal duties, he strummed along on a Fender Stratocaster from his perch atop the drum throne. Josh “Deakin” Dibb has had the least consistent attendance of the Collective over the course of their last four albums, and while he had primarily been holding down guitar duties on previous tours, at The ‘Dise, his primary instrument was the keyboard.
Although Lennox and Dave “Avey Tare” Portner have become the de facto face of the outfit, Deakin proved to be the secret sauce that gave the recipe its punch. Brian “Geologist” Weitz held true to his role as the Signal Manipulator in Chief, mediating the dialogue between his Moog, Roland Sampler, and an extensive rats nest of wires navigating his Eurorack modular synth. While none of this gear is new to Geologist, what came as a surprise was his extensive use of a hurdy-gurdy (think a violin but with a crank that turns a wheel in place of a bow). You wouldn’t think a medieval string instrument would fit in among synths and samplers, but the sustained drone in its projection really blended well with the group’s expansive soundscape.
They wrapped the set with an encore performance of “The Purple Bottle” that drove the crowd wild. People were pogoing, hands were waiving and had it not been for N95 masks on our faces, you could have been mistaken for thinking this was a peak Animal Collective gig circa 2008.