By Alex HudsonThe incarnation of Animal Collective that took the stage at Vancouver's Malkin Bowl was very different from the one that appeared at the Commodore Ballroom three years ago. Not only was band member Deakin back in the fold after sitting out the last album and tour, but the group had traded in many of their synths and samplers for a comparatively traditional rock-band setup. Rather than twiddling knobs and dials, Panda Bear spent the entire show behind his drum kit, while Avey Tare was found seated in front of a keyboard at stage right.
The live configuration meant that the band's rhythmic jams packed a particularly powerful wallop, especially when Deakin set aside his guitar to play auxiliary percussion, as he did during his turn on lead vocals for "Wide Eyed." Cuts such as this one from the recent Centipede Hz sounded practically identical to the studio versions — an impressive feat considering the album's dense, fast-moving arrangements.
Despite the overhauled instrumental setup, some things never change. Animal Collective still don't offer much in the way of showmanship, and the four-piece said almost nothing between songs other than to compliment the venue and offer a cursory "thank you." They remained almost motionless at their instruments; the most interesting member to look at was electronics whiz Geologist, and that was only because of the bobbing of his ever-present headlamp.
Luckily, Animal Collective's virtually non-existent stage presence was made up for by an impressive lighting show. The stage was framed by a massive cartoon mouth with colourfully illuminated teeth, while the screen at the back showed a selection of woozy, static-soaked videos. And even if the visual display wasn't always enough to perk up the placid, chilly-looking crowd, then the encore performance of the career highlight "My Girls" sent everyone home happy.