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Live Review: Animal Collective at the Fonda

February 27, 2009 |  2:10 pm
Animal500

There’s a fascinating clip floating around the Internet of Malcolm Gladwell discussing Fleetwood Mac. He uses the band to illustrate “the 10,000 hour rule,” which he posits is the amount of dedicated work it takes to become truly great at something. Taken from his most recent book, "Outliers," Gladwell offers up the story of Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 album "Rumours." He argues that it took the band 10 years, 10 studio albums and a rotating cast of members to ultimately culminate in one of the most popular records of all time.

It’s taken Animal Collective nine years and roughly as many albums to arrive at "Merriweather Post Pavilion," released in January and which has already been heralded by many as the album of the year. While it's not likely to sell as many copies as "Rumours," the impact of "MPP" on modern “indie” music is undeniable. Breaking away from time-worn rock traditions while simultaneously embracing the last 40 years or so of contemporary music, the warm, digital euphoria of "MPP" has galvanized a new generation of fans eager to crown their own set of sonic heroes.

Taking the stage at the Music Box @ Fonda on Thursday night to make up for a January date postponed due to illness, Avey Tare (David Portner), Geologist (Brian Weitz) and Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) put on a fantastic, soul-stirring show that found the band making the most of this moment where all eyes are effectively trained on them.

Peppering a "MPP"-heavy set with older fan favorites and a blistering version of band member Panda Bear’s solo track “Comfy in Nautica,” Animal Collective has honed its live show into a seamless tidal wave of aural ecstasy. At times, the show felt like an Underworld concert played at half-speed, with deep, tactile bass tones rumbling through the old theater to the delight of the die-hard fans packed inside; at other times, the hands-in-the-air, feel-good nature of early '90s rave culture was readily apparent. The underlying throb of the show sounded like a psychedelic take on the U.K.-bred “dubstep” sound, as if Burial himself where manning the soundboard.

With flashing touches of Radiohead, Spiritualized circa "Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space" and Massive Attack (particularly with the chopped break-beats of a new song that's called either “Blue Sky” or "What Would I Want Sky," depending on who you ask), Animal Collective are hitting a sweet spot that’s all their own. The thunderous response from the sold-out crowd proved it -- all the Internet-bred hyperbole in the world means nothing when the music can actually move people in the moment.

With “My Girls” and “Lion in a Coma” from "MPP" eliciting the most rapturous audience response, it’s obvious that the band's eighth studio album is a new touchstone for the aforementioned new generation of music fans. As the genuine shared musical experiences of the past continue to erode away in an increasingly fractured and niche landscape, Animal Collective is making an admirable and inspiring play at creating a unified moment.

It’s downright criminal that Animal Collective is not on the bill for Coachella 2009. Their presence would be a tremendous and most welcome addition to the Saturday night lineup. The mind reels at the feel-good devastation they will level on the fields of Bonnaroo this year. It’s profound to think that the band could be reaching their 10,000 mark sometime during that set. Tell Malcolm Gladwell the news.

-- Scott T. Sterling

Photo courtesy of Motormouth Media

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