Glass Animals unites Greek Theatre under pineapples, joyous dancing

Ethan Epstein /Senior Staff

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Under the shimmering reflected light of its giant, golden pineapple-shaped disco ball, Glass Animals absolutely commanded the Hearst Greek Theatre on Friday night. The performance emblematically exemplified a rare, perfect storm of excitement and passion that can flow back and forth between a band and its audience.

At one moment, buried in the middle of the set, the crowd cheered so loudly and so continuously that the band couldn’t even start its next song. Frontman Dave Bayley stood, seemingly incredulous of the whole thing, hands covering his smile as he absorbed the scene, alternatively spinning in circles to diffuse himself and returning to the mic, only to be drowned in another roar of applause.

That immense energy was a bit surprising given the chill, groovy nature of the band’s music. Credit then, to the Oxford-based quartet for pumping enough intensity into those tracks to keep the crowd moving all night. A lot of that energy came from Bayley, whose rambunctious dance moves infected the venue instantly — even between songs he was jumping around, as if raring to go on the next song.

Credit is due as well to the band’s stage design which, in addition to the pineapple disco ball, featured large, light-up boxes that dramatically set the colorspace of each song. Glass Animals’ light show trends perhaps most closely to British contemporary alt-J; the show was exquisitely choreographed, down to the beat, mirroring the attention to detail present in the band’s albums and throwing the four band members into stark, colorful relief. The disco ball, with its million brilliant rays of golden light, was used sparingly, injecting shock-and-awe moments before receding into the fog.

Matching the visual dynamism of that light show sonically isn’t an easy task, especially given that Glass Animals doesn’t play to a backing track, a decision which necessarily strips elements from its complex, multi-layered songs.

The band’s solution Friday night was multi-instrumentalism. Band members Drew MacFarlane and Edmund Irwin-Singer rotated between guitars, basses and keyboard setups — often within the same song. The band also added new layers of complexity by integrating new guitar solos and intros/outros, and modulating the tempo of songs with respect to their album counterparts.

That said, it proved impossible to capture the full sound of all the songs the band performed — though it was a tradeoff that avoided trapping the musicians behind keyboards, and gave them the freedom to move around the stage. The sonic reduction was more noticeable on some songs than others — “The Other Side of Paradise” sounded fantastic in its live rendition, while fan-favorite “Gooey” felt a little lacking instrumentally.

The audience didn’t seem to care, though, because “Gooey” also found Bayley jumping into the pit and performing the majority of the song from deep within the crowd as he wound his way through and danced along.

Unfortunately, Bayley’s vocals were often buried in the mix, in part due to their half-whispered, low-register nature. Looking back at videos of the show (which pick out the vocals more easily) reveals them to be surprisingly rich, but that didn’t make them easier to hear over the bass during the performance.

Those nitpickings melted away during the impassioned, emotional performance of “Agnes” at the end of the regular set, a personal song that was resonant with the crowd on a more intimate level than the dance-worthy tracks dominating the rest of the show.

During the gap before the encore, crowd members chanted “Pork Soda,” which would invariably turn out to be the encore’s closer. It was an unsurprising choice — the song contains the “pineapples are in my head” lyric that has become emblematic of the tour’s set design (not to mention half the crowd was decked out in pineapple-themed apparel) — but it didn’t have the intensity expected of a encore closer, and it might’ve fit better as an opener instead.

But as the lights came up, the crowd seemed unready to budge. The wholesome energy the band put out left the show feeling as though it had ended far too soon, and several hundred audience members lingered within the Greek for more than half an hour after the show’s conclusion, refusing to let go. The impassioned dancing, and the interactions the band members shared on stage, gave the impression they were having the time of their lives, and as a result, so were we.

Imad Pasha covers music. Contact him at [email protected]. Tweet him at @prappleizer.