Animal Collective @ Bowery Ballroom, NYC 1/21/09

Was Animal Collective at Bowery Ballroom The Best Concert Of 2009? Far be it for me to pose such irresponsibly hyperbolic questions so early in the year. So Was Animal Collective at Bowery Ballroom Worth DVRing the LOST Premiere For? Well, obviously. This is a band that’s now headlining (Pitchfork) music festivals, so making mincemeat of Bowery’s soundboard and relative intimacy was not a problem for a band riding their strongest album and loudest praise to date. The music fest note runs deep; this was essentially an expansion of their set at P4K last summer (one of my favorite shows of ’08), with a similar string of Merriweather jams (“Lion In A Coma,” “Daily Routine,” “My Girls”), a Panda Bear “cover” (“Comfy In Nautica”), the array of mini light towers, a shot of unreleased material (this time, “Blue Sky“), and a total lack of Feels. It was also similar in that it was so good.

For all its Jam of ’09 shortlist status, unintentional iPod ad “My Girls” actually wasn’t the crowning moment you’d expect. Maybe that’s because it was just the second song played; maybe that’s the reason it was the second song played. Curious either way, given it was a live performance that set tongues wagging in the first place. Instead it served as an early kick to a show that steadily surged, seeing the Deakin-less trio ride their psychedelic loops, deep dub bass, and racket drumming (check Noah on “Essplode”) into a full-on raved up apex with the set-closing “Brother Sport.”

My favorite moments came via the dramatic reinventions of Sung songs, maybe because they were so new to my ears, but also because it’s that consistent drive to rework their catalogue that makes Animal Collective such an exciting live experience. It doesn’t always work, occasionally it’s just soundboard masturbation (some Feels-era shows were tough to take), and last night it was transportive. The encore featured a nearly unrecognizable “Winters Love” stripped of its campfire feel, swapping brightly strummed acoustics for resounding bass and a slightly r&b groove, Avey and Panda harmonizing for minutes, endlessly, beautifully melodic. You can hear what AC’s making of their material these days by refreshing this link to nyctaper (overloaded at the moment), which has a band-sanctioned set of live MP3s from the previous night’s show at Grand Ballroom. I bring it up because the hypnotic transformation of “Leaf House” was one of last night’s highs that didn’t come from all the pot smoke (so much pot smoke all the time), and rather than read about it you should just have this practically identical take from 1/19:

Animal Collective – “Leaf House” (Live at Grand Ballroom, NYC 1/20/09) (MP3)

They’re on a world tour. Make your way there, expect a setlist that resembles one of the two below, and hope for some Sung Tongs tweaking.

01 “Also Frightened”
02 “My Girls”
03 “Blue Sky”
04 “Slippi”
05 “Leaf House”
06 “Summertime Clothes”
07 “Guys Eyes”
08 “Lablakley Dress” –> “Fireworks”
09 “Lion In A Coma”
10 “Brothersport”
11 “Winters Love”
12 “Comfy in Nautica”

01 “In The Flowers”
02 “Leaf House”
03 “Blue Sky”
04 “Guys Eyes”
05 “Summertime Clothes”
06 “Daily Routine”
07 “Lion in A Coma”
08 “Lablakely Dress”
09 “Fireworks”
10 “My Girls”
11 “Brother Sport”
12 “Beat”
13 “Slippi”