Animal Collective's first ever show in Tel Aviv attracted an unique confluence of people of and atmosphere. I'm not just talking about the unusually high proportion of Americans that were there, or the average age of the audience (far lower than most gigs in the city), or the somewhat bizarre sight of so many teens and aged hipsters trekking to the outskirts of T.A. for a gig in a slick and elegant club located in an industrial science park. This gig is rare and special because bands like Animal Collective simply don't come here very often. Most international concerts are given by established rock acts, reggae or soul artists, or DJs. P4k-approved indie phenoms simply don't add T.A. as a stop on their European tours, and the fact that this band did exactly that created a pre-gig buzz and anticipation that can only come from a crowd that has seen only a small handful of such concerts in the past year, if not in their whole lifetime. I can't say that any of this caught me by surprise, but regardless, once you've seen several hundred concerts by virtually all of your favourite bands (including this one) you reach a point of being not so much jaded (someone please shoot me if I ever become jaded about experiencing palpable excitement before a concert by a great band) but certainly on the outside looking in at a crowd of joyous concertgoers who seemed to have little clue about what they were about to experience other than the assurance that it would be a whole lot of fun. Not only that, the party hosts would be a band that matters -- not one that used to matter five or ten or twenty years ago, but one that is a creative, critical, and popular success right now. Put that together with a group of ticket holders who would normally be thrilled just to see ANY cool gig, and you have an audience concoction not unlike the Ottawa audiences I was a part of during the summer I lived there. These are some of the best crowds you will ever see because they're made up of music fans who wait for months to see the gigs they really want, and always retain a special sense of music star worship that can only come with the humble feelings of surprise and disbelief that this band has truly chosen to come to their city*.
For most of the main set, they ran through the new songs they've been road testing for over a year, interspersed with tracks like "Peacebone" to get people moving (part of me is amazed that they can still bring so much energy to a song they've been playing almost every night for the past three years, but then again this is the same band that regularly went nutso to "We Tigers" for an even longer period of time). With the exception of an 18-minute version of "Lablakely Dress/Fireworks/Essplode/Fireworks" (whew) that was probably about five minutes too long, most of the song presentations were fairly concise and uninventive. But maybe I've lost the element of surprise with these tracks after hearing so many Animal Collective live recordings over the past two years. On the other hand, I never got tired of hearing "The Purple Bottle" in any of its forms, but in general the band has dropped a certain spirit of chaos and improvisation that was lost when they transformed from a guitar band to a dance band when Deakin started staying at home for the tours.
The encores (all 40 minutes of them!) were no mere codas -- they were the highlights of the show. After the first song -- a prog-dance slowburner that owes more to house/techno than anything else they've done -- I was forced to freely eat some of my words about the band having lost an experimental edge. A wild take on Panda Bear's "Comfy In Nautica" (with Ravel's "Bolero" sung in the breakdown between verses -- no really!) and the soon to be released "Material Things" (its working title) restore my faith in the band's ability to reinvent themselves as many times as they feel necessary.
* which is one reason why journos don't know how to deal with them when they do, witness this horrifyingly bad preview and poor excuse for an interview with Panda Bear as the unfortunate victim. I'll restrain myself with comments about why it's so bad, but the band history is clearly cribbed from their wikipedia page and "revealing" that a band's fans don't get bored of listening to their albums is just about the lamest comment that can be made in a feature article.