Although the boys of Glass Animals are comparatively new entrants to the alternative scene, they somewhat easily filled The Wiltern to capacity for not one but two nights last week — a particularly impressive feat when you take into consideration the fact that their debut, Zaba, was only released a little over a year ago.
A symphonic mishmash of psychedelia-tinged moody bass, tropical marimbas, and “sexy nonsense lyrics” as I’ve affectionately dubbed them, Zaba had music critics and fans alike buzzing and landed the group squarely on the radar of Goldenvoice, who quickly booked them for this year’s Coachella.
The noticeably devoted following the band has attracted in the wake of their inaugural release was obvious from the get-go when a sizable percentage of the crowd at The Wiltern recited the lyrics of set opener “Walla Walla” in perfect sync with lead vocalist Dave Bayley, who emerged on stage surrounded by delightfully kitschy faux palm trees.
“Gooey,” the group’s most well-known single to date, elicited the most enthusiastic audience response of the night, and though it sounded delightful, the layered crescendos of “Hazey” and “Flip” are where the band truly shined. The inherent sensuality in both tracks is undeniably magnified when Bayley’s voice is hovering just over a crooning whisper and your body can literally feel the pulsing of bass in time with the subtle buildups.
Despite Zaba’s more muted leanings, Glass Animals did an overall great job of breathing life into most songs in their repertoire throughout their set, though there were still a handful of stretches that could have used a little more oomph, particularly “Psylla” and “Cocoa Hooves.” I wouldn’t go so far as to say they sounded bad, just that they were somewhat unmemorable.
That said, Glass Animals did mitigate the more reserved bits by venturing into cover territory with renditions of Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown” and “Gold Lime,” a Yeah Yeah Yeahs/Erykah Badu mashup. I couldn’t comfortably call either particularly earth-shattering, but they were undeniably solid and broke up the dreamy atmosphere of the evening nicely. The band did, however, pull out all the stops for the whimsical encore set closer, “Pools,” during which the wholly appreciative crowd was powerless to resist the urge to dance and sing along.
Since their inaugural appearance at this year’s Coachella, Glass Animals has come a long way. They were perfectly adequate then, but they looked much more comfortable on stage at The Wiltern, and the tighter, more fluid sound they now possess is a testament to that. As with just about any band, there’s certainly some room for improvement, but I can safely say I was impressed by the progress they’ve made in the live performance department in the span of five months.
It’s hard to believe Glass Animals has gotten this far with one release, but make no mistake, they’re an undeniably talented bunch. If they manage to carry this momentum over through their yet-to-be-announced sophomore release, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with. I look forward to seeing if that ends up being the case.
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