Animal Collective haven’t forgotten how to be delightfully weird, delivering a manic mind melt at LA’s Greek Theatre

Animal CollectiveBy Rochelle Shipman //

Animal Collective with SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE //
Greek Theatre – Los Angeles
May 20th, 2022 //

It’s safe to say that a lot has changed in the world over the last two years, but there’s one thing that has thankfully remained the same about Animal Collective: they’re still weird as shit and delightful as all hell.

Their triumphant display at the Greek Theatre felt like a long-awaited psychedelic hug, a comforting two hours of pure and manic mind melt. Animal Collective’s music can be somewhat divisive, so to be with 5,000 of your newest friends at a concert screaming along to some of your most treasured songs … it never gets old, even if you don’t know exactly what it is that they’re saying all the time. In fact, that only adds to the beauty of it since they formed more than two decades ago.

Friday’s headlining performance in LA all the sweet spots. The last pre-pandemic tour or two had each member of Animal Collective tucked behind rightful, yet artful individual podiums, which decorated the stage and elevated the show in its own right. But after a chaotic couple of years for all of us, it felt really good to have all four of them together on the same stage, instruments spread about, baring it all in front of a live audience with nothing except a few cables and some keyboards separating them. It was a solid reminder that these guys make these stunningly intricate songs with their own human hands after all.

Avey Tare (David Portner), Deakin (Josh Dibb) and Geologist (Brian Weitz) pivoted back and forth from strings to keys and synths, rarely looking up and never missing a beat, while just watching Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) coo and harmonize from behind his drum kit damn near felt like a privilege. And yet, they hardly exchanged so much as a glance at each other, somehow bringing an even more impressive layer to the group’s already-electrifying catalog.

Animal Collective

The setlist was perfect, the visuals were on point as ever and the band was tight on this night. Animal Collective are never loose per se — their music literally doesn’t allow it — but they glided through each song with such a familiar air of ease. In the handful of shows I’ve been lucky enough to catch over the years, they tend to use their live shows to test out brand-new material and dip into older songs — both beloved favorites and those that don’t always get to see the light of day. Given the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years, it’s safe to say that their 11th and newest studio album Time Skiffs didn’t exactly get that same pre-release tour treatment. This show made up for that, not only with the band righteously tearing through the bulk of the nine-track LP that dropped in February, but also with the packs of “Time Spliffs” rolling papers available at the merch table (right next to the safe abortion access information).

In addition to the Skiffs and one or two new songs, Animal Collective offered cuts from Centipede HZ, Strawberry Jam, Merriweather Post Pavilion and two songs off ODDSAC. They didn’t touch Painting With or any of the fantastic singles from the EPs surrounding it, and they didn’t dig into anything pre-Strawberry Jam. As a Strawberry Jam purist, I again felt privileged to be there. Not only did we get to hear “Chores”, but we got a fiery encore of “Unsolved Mysteries” right into a raucous rendition of “For Reverend Green” to close out a four-song encore.

Within seconds of the house lights flickering on, someone in front of me lamented the absence of “My Girls”. He turned around and said, “I don’t get it. That was such a weak ending. Why wouldn’t they play their biggest hit?” To clarify (and as I confirmed by the look on his friend’s face), “For Reverend Green” was not a weak ending. It was, in fact, exhilarating. And it’s nothing against that dude — it was his first Animal Collective show. He’ll probably enjoy the next one more because he won’t be expecting it, and maybe he’ll even be surprised.

Animal Collective didn’t play “My Girls” partially because that guy expected it. They don’t champion their biggest hit in a way that many bands would. They’re not there to play the hits, and it’s clear at this phase in their career that they don’t have to be. Their live stage time is and always has been cherished among them, reserved for the songs they feel like sharing with fans and nothing else. For us, it’s just a privilege to bear witness after all these years.

Setlist:
Passer-By
Bluish
Gem and I
Wide Eyed
Prester John
Cherokee
In the Flowers
Working
Strung With Everything
We Go Back
Chores
Applesauce

Encore:
Screens
No More Runnin
Unsolved Mysteries
For Reverend Green

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