Glass Animals at The Academy – Review
Punctually rambling on stage with a sort of easy-going and enthusiastic air, it’s clear to see why Oxford four piece, Glass Animals, sold out their only Dublin date in a matter of hours. Their widely-acclaimed debut album of tropical, techno-funk, ZABA, is an extension of the idiosyncratic dreamlike air that they seem to exude. The album itself has arrived on the music scene as this vibrant injection of sultry, other-worldly sounds. A deliciously alluring combination of electro-funk and dance-punk, ZABA is like a sweet cup of English tea, playing synth-like jungle beats that leave the audience in a trance. The album has been so delicately crafted to be an entire world in itself, each cord, and every cosmic outro, orchestrated to create a timeline of bubbling progression. In spite of the fact that the band are relatively new, they used the intrinsic and minute details of their album to forge a hallmark that makes them so recognisable: the throaty vocals, the rousing development of sounds, swaying between electro-folk and permeating hip-hop all culminate in this delightful sound that feels sort of like an untamed beast. There’s this sort of clamouring quality to their songs, such as ‘Cocoa Hooves’ and ‘Gooey’ and upon your first listening you feel immediately transported to another world of shimmering electro-pop and exotic slow jams.
From start to finish there’s this focus of energy, there’s a palpable intensity between the boys from the second they emerge on stage, their vocals and guitars ring through in glorious harmony with a boyish-like charm to them, a delicate tension between control and a desire to cut loose. Frontman Dave Bayley in particular seems to be temporarily paralysed in the bubbling essence of “Psylla” and “Gooey”, just managing to regain control of his limbs long enough to redirect his attention towards the fans, shyly smiling, again the passion is so tangible in their performance that they engross themselves in each performance as if it was their last. At times it’s easy to see why Glass Animals have been so casually coupled with the likes of indie-folk group, alt-J, at times they draw everything back, creating these slow, simmering tracks, such as “Toes”. The crowd stare in a sort of captivated manner, as they played the hypnotic “Walla Walla” with its mesmerising outro.
Keeping in the line with the much uncaged quality of “ZABA” as an album, Bayley acts as the ultimate frontman and ringmaster combined, with his throaty whispering inviting you to join in musical circus, particularly during “Black Mambo”, the audience turns into a snake pit of waving limbs. Sharing furtive glances of awkward pride with bandmate, Drew MacFarlane, at the crowd’s rapturous cheering at the end of “Hazey” it’s clear this is a band that revels in live performances, drinking in the delighted faces of the fans. In fact, at the opening of their set the applause and cheering is so overwhelming that Bayley has to remind the audience that they’ve just started. They variance between this sort of jungle-funk they seem to make their own and the slowed-down techno funk with songs like “Wyrd” and “Pools” just shows the broad palette of these boys, even their ability to move between of instruments with the sort of casual ease of seasoned performers suggests the stage is their natural habitat. The outlandish electro-dramatics of their sound is just a charming curiosity in itself and to watch it come alive on the smoked out, botanical greenhouse of a stage is absolutely enthralling.
The highlight of the set was when the boys re-emerged for their encore, only for Bayley to clamber across the barrier and send the crowd into flurry as he proceeded to perform a significantly funkier version of Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown”. The English accent infuses the track with this sort of fringe-pop quality and the audience practically hold Bayley up as he sings, with his signature move of losing control of his arms whilst performing. It seems as if the Oxford foursome particularly enjoyed their only Dublin performance until July, the four of them smiling proudly as the repeated cheers and screams close their performance, shaking the very foundations of the Academy. Their travelling circus of bass and retro-funk continues on to Europe, notching up shows in Belgium, France, and Germany, before moving on to the USA. All the while their Irish fans eagerly await with bated breath for them to return with their quirky and dreamlike performances.
Review by Elaine McDonald