Glass Animals @ The Triffid, 7th July
Without meaning to sound like Deepak Chopra, I sometimes feel a genuine ‘oneness’ of mind in a live music audience. Maybe it helps that I’m hemmed in, bodies bumping into me from all sides, forcing my movement along with the throng. But that can’t be all it is – there’s a marked difference between awkward bumps which knock me off stride, and the kind which seem here to accentuate my movement. The cumulative effect of the latter is an audience acting as a single, pulsating organism, one which slides together like a snake. Well tonight at The Triffid, I am just a node in that larger snake, and it is being expertly charmed by a group of four British guys from Oxfordshire, collectively known as Glass Animals.
The song they’re playing is their latest single Life Itself, the first cut off their forthcoming second album How to be a Human Being. I find all this allusion to ‘animals’, ‘human’ and ‘life itself’ to be particularly apt, because there’s nothing mechanistic about Glass Animals’ music. Yes, it’s four guys with a pretty conventional setup – vocals, keys/guitar, bass, drums – but they manage to tap into something tribal and hypnotic, aided by eccentric songwriting and stage presence. The drums are jungle funk, the rhythms are heavily hip-hop influenced. Oh, and they also knock out some wicked guitar solos. ‘Indie-rock’ really doesn’t quite cover it.
Life Itself is catchy, but it’s not the tune that has everyone rattling (should I quit with the snake analogy already?). That reception is reserved for several of the tunes off their debut 2014 album Zaba. The opening keys arpeggio to Gooey is greeted with rapturous cheers, and when Dave Bayley starts his sultry vocals he’s not the only one singing. It’s probably wrong to say the song rocks the crowd. That implies that people are throwing their heads around. But Glass Animals don’t work your neck. They work your shoulders; Glass Animals make you cut shapes. I’m probably supposed to be keeping an eye on what’s happening on stage, but I’m not. I find myself cutting shapes along with everybody else.
The set progresses to some of their latest stuff, set to be released in their coming album, and I’m pleased to report that it keeps the crowd swaying. I find it quite remarkable to think that Glass Animals are a band that almost never were; Bayley considered quiting for medical school before being plucked by renowned producer Paul Epworth. That man’s opportunism is the music world’s gain. There are a few other bands around who are like Glass Animals, but none that I know who do this kind of style better.
The two-song encore caps off the captivating performance. It starts with a surprise cover of Kanye West’s Love Lockdown – the song the band performed for Triple J’s Like a Version, and one of the better covers to grace that hallowed turf. It ends with the party tune Pools. Everyone in this converted aircraft hanger that is the Triffid is bouncing at this point. I suddenly remember I should probably take some video footage on my phone. I manage about 4 seconds before submitting again to the urge to cut shapes. There’s a huge cheer as the final chord fades, and I’m left satisfied, with a snakey grin on my face.