Animal Collective. Terminal 5. November 2, 2016

There’s really only one thing that could have competed with game 7 of a Cubs v Indians World Series on Thursday night, and that was seeing Animal Collective do a serious deep dive at Terminal 5. Arriving at the Terminal, it appeared that followers of legitimately one of the greatest bands of all time (those who are dubious need only see them live) were being lured inside, filing in as if they didn’t really have another choice.

For one thing, there’s the instinctively staggered vocal interplay between Avey Tare and Panda Bear, whose bird calls from an alternate universe boomerang in and out of one another in patterns that transfix. For another, there’s the fortitude of a group that can recreate and reshape their recorded material with imagination that is unparallelled, and for yet another, there are like 9 other things which leave you speechless and a happy party to the wild rumpus that gradually builds to a human wave during an AC show.  

Terminal 5 turned into an aquarium of the rolling, swimming Animal Collective faithful last night, an ideal setting for the almost unfathomable set that drew broadly from their discography of distinct aural treasures now thirteen years in the making. The wonderfully wacky impressionist art of the stage set let you know right away who you were there to see, as whenever given the space to work with Animal Collective visual design approaches glorious grandeur. Into cravasses of their mysterious lead the audience went and In a way you felt like you were on Willy Wonka’s psychedelic tunnel boat tour. It really did become an all out trance ride and you were strapped in with the three stooges at the wheel. The fourth member of the gang Deakin was absent this night, as he was on their latest album Painting With.

Some selections from that album, including “Lying in the Grass and “Summing the Wretch”got things going, and a gradual integration of older classics off masterpiece albums Sung Tongs, Feels and Merriweather Post Pavilion filtered in. It all played like warped journeys into the group’s projected creativity, marvelous departures that danced and floated like a laundry line of sheets in the winds of their fancy. Particularly entrancing were long, winding plays of “Loch Raven”, which sent all into dreamland and an electro-dub-warped variation of the originally acoustic “Kids on holiday”. It’s really up in the air with a live set of AC; there’s no telling from what corner of what album or obscure ep they will pull a song to play, or how its version will unfold and materialize.

Animal Collective is the type of group that has the luxury of going on extended hiatus in a show and then snap people out of their hypnosis as they did when “FloriDada” hopped into the fold. At that point, the crowd wound up being putty in their hands. At their control consoles, they were like mass puppeteers and from up above on the third deck, sheet rays of vibrant light would momentarily reveal a sea of bodies united in a swirl of directions, like massive bird murmations.  

Through an expansive and extended performance, Avey Tare was the vocal intermediary with the crowd, periodically checking in and engaging it with playful “Who's got a jimmy out there!?...Put your arm around your jimmy!” After the enthusiastic roar for an encore was answered, he sort of let out a giggle of surprise and humility at the prolonged cheers of appreciation. Along with Geologist and Panda Bear, Animal Collective had delivered in spectacular form.

Only when experiencing a show so dimensional and voluminous do you recognize how much it transcends an ordinary concert experience. Expectations were toyed with, and convention scattered like hundreds of puzzle pieces, and then placed in new order to reveal the land of their design, where colors and characters are at once deceptive and familiar.