By Vaughn Schoonmaker
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Underneath a starry sky on a warm summer night in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, Animal Collective took the stage for a nearly two hour set that left some fans highly satisfied with an outpouring of new material. While I found the setting and weather to be the perfect accompaniment for an Animal Collective concert, whose new wave, electronica, dreamy and arguably pop sound has garnered them a sizable following in the U.S., I could not stop wondering why I was having such a hard time getting into the mood of the show.
Considering it was seven songs before they played a recognizable crowd-pleaser, “Brother Sport,” from their hit album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, I realized that I was not the only one having a difficult time adjusting to their new material.
“What is this song?” I heard mumbled from several fans in their late teens/early 20s. “When are they going to play [insert any one of their earlier song titles here]?”
Artists must go through a very complex stage of tour preparation when designing their set list. A careful line must be drawn that establishes how much of the older content can be played without overshadowing the material. In Brooklyn tonight, it seemed that they chose a route that shifted full gear into exclusively new material.
In the age of iTunes and the concept of downloading singles versus entire albums, a band may be considered quite lucky to find mass appeal, as Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion did, reaching an unusually-high-for-the-genre No. 13 on the U.S. Billboard 200. Playing only three (mind-blowingly good) songs from that album certainly left a few fans down, myself included. There is something wonderfully soothing about hearing a familiar song at the shows of your favorite bands, regardless of how good their new material may be.
With that said, the new songs, which outnumbered their more recognizable hits trifold, sounded quite good, and I would not be surprised to hear that their next album does well based on this edgier, even dance-friendly material. But I wonder if, since they are playing these new songs at shows before the new album’s release date has even been set, we should accept that any of these newfound hits won’t be played the next time around.
RIP Merriweather Post Pavilion. Although I must say, hearing “Brother Sport,” “Summertime Clothes” and “Taste” certainly helped make the night worth braving the muggy heat of a New York City summer evening.