[live review] Animal Collective + Dan Deacon @ the House of Blues 03.07.13

Photos courtesy of Nick Walecka.

You know that phenomenon when you find out that a band you reeaally love is coming through town, but then you're struck with the immediate realization that you reeaally didn't love their last album? (Not that you hated it by any means, but it was just an odd-to-bad sideways-to-regressive step during an otherwise unblemished career trajectory.) And you're left feeling afraid you'll get stuck listening to a bunch of songs that you'd rather not be listening to. On top of that, the band is actually known for using the live arena as a glorified practice space, playing only new material, sometimes even forthcoming unreleased stuff, and generally eschewing fan favorites altogether.

So it was against the above outlined better judgement that I found myself on the floor of a sold out House of Blues last night, hearing the tweaked-up circus meth numbers contained on ANIMAL COLLECTIVE's most recent Centipede Hz and thoroughly not enjoying myself. Though they've always walked a psychedelic line, they've really dove off the deepend with this one, injecting a near comical degree of mania into their formula. The only seeming explanation for their abrupt turn down the rabbit hole is the reintroduction of Josh Dibb aka Deakin, their longtime guitarist who took a hiatus from the band during a time that saw them release their most successful effort (commercially and critically, not personally) to date, Merriweather Post Pavillion.

So it was with some disdain that I found myself glaring at Deakin last night, wondering what he'd done to one of my favorite bands. At about the exact midpoint of the set, however, he emerged from behind his synth rig, guitar strapped for battle, and started pogoing in the middle of the stage -- the first real sign of emotion we'd seen from any member up that point. And at that exact time, in crept the magical hymns of "Brother Sport," the first song of the night that I'd deem tolerable for anyone not geeked to the gills on seven different types of ecstasy. From there they were off and running. The Dead-sampling "What Would I Want Sky," the gentle hum of "Bluish," and "My Girls," which judging by the reaction of the largely college-aged crowd, is what the people really came out for. Even new songs "New Town Burnout" and "Monkey Riches" sounded more robust and less asinine in this context.

I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, it being the first show on the tour, and say they needed time to warm up. This is no better evidenced than the encore, "Amanita" melting into "The Purple Bottle," the best song off their best album, regardless of what anyone says. And let me tell you: It's hard to hold any ill will towards a concert when you walk out with as big of a shit-eating grin as I was sporting while exiting the House of Blues.

DAN DEACON opened the show. The second Dan Deacon ended his set, I turned to my brother and said, "I hope Animal Collective didn't make the wrong decision by asking him to open." Not because it sucked, but rather because it's difficult for anyone to top the energy Dan Deacon brings to the stage. Working with his now standard setup of toys that specialize in woosh noises, he also brought with him two drummers to serve as his left and right hand men in his mission to mindfuck the audience. He instructed everyone to kneel and spin and generally lose their inhibitions during a too short 45-minute outing that included personal favorties "Crystal Cat" and "Wham City."

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