Animal Collective @ The Palace, Melbourne (23/01/2013)

Back in Australia for the first time since their 2009 visit for Meredith Music Festival, the show put on this time round by the NYC-via-Lisbon based four-piece was markedly different and much more conventional than its predecessor. Eschewing the Meredith set’s back-catalogue kaleidoscope-remix approach for a more straight-up song-by-song affair Animal Collective were received by an audience that, if modest in size, was palpably less so in their enthusiasm.

Having been pulled so sharply into the popular spotlight in the months prior to their last Australian visit, it would have been disappointing, if not unexpected, for Animal Collective to have experienced a post-zeitgeist slump. However, Centipede Hz represents an unfaltering forward-movement in their sound and the band drew heavily – and for the first half of the set, exclusively – on the new material.

Animal Collective opened with the affable ‘Rosie Oh’ with Noah Lennox’s melodic sensibility easing the crowd in, before giving way to the manic vocal assault of David Portner and Centipede Hz lead single ‘Today’s Supernatural’. The streak of new tracks remained unbroken until the inclusion of Merriweather Post Pavilion’s ‘Lion in a Coma’, one of only five songs in the set not from their most recent record. Audience members keen for a dance found themselves stuck in a rhythmic limbo although the most determined among them spent song after song bobbing and jerking. As soon as a workable rhythm seemed to have revealed itself, Animal Collective would break everything down, build it back up and oblige would-be dancers to start all over again.

If the audience languished at all through the pop cacophony of the set’s first half, their patience was rewarded with a flawless delivery of MPP closer ‘Brothersport’ as the pounding beats and ecstatic synths peaked in an almost trashy, neon-and-strobe hoedown. Marking the beginning of a more accessible streak in the set the band followed ‘Brothersport’ with Strawberry Jam’s ‘Peacebone’ and before returning for an encore featuring MPP centrepiece ‘My Girls’.