Watching a progress bar fill may not be the sort of thing you’d expect at a packed Ally Pally gig, but Glass Animals have always been a band who’ve rallied against expectations. At one point, their chewy bubblegum approach to alt-indie-pop and everything in-between may have felt like too much of a shift to absorb, but the proof is in the pudding.
After a standout 2021, if you ask for the biggest bands on the planet right now, it’s hard to leave Glass Animals out of the conversation. Sold out shows from Alabama to Australia? Check. Chart-conquering bangers? Check. A fevered and loyal fan base? Check. It adds up to the sort of global success story that most bands dream of but few ever achieve. What makes it all the more special is that they’ve done it their way. Not trying to fit into an established box or trend, they’ve taken those cookie-cutter designs and thrown them out the window. The result is a band that thrives on defying expectations. Who revel in the unique and celebrate the different. Tonight at Alexandra Palace, Glass Animals pose the question of how you ever saw them at a venue smaller than this, and that sets the standard for just how much of a big deal they are.
As that progress bar ticks to zero, their full production kicks in. Complete with a tropical pool set up with palm trees, neon signs, a cinematic screen behind them and even a diving board to boot – it’s a 360 show that most festival headliners would dream of. It follows the tone of ‘Dreamland’ to a tee, an album bold with vision and eye-splitting energy that still manages to capture modern life in glorious pop perfection. ‘Tangerine’, ‘Space Ghost Coast To Coast’ and ‘Hot Sugar’ pay tribute to an album of wonderful realisation. Packed from front to back, the gathered crowds believe in a band that doesn’t just serve up the bangers (and they do) but creates a mood too. ‘I Don’t Wanna Talk (I Just Wanna Dance)’ is greeted like a bonafide classic despite being out just a matter of weeks. It’s jaw-dropping in every sense of the word, and unlike any live show you’ve seen this year.
Underneath all the stunning production and meticulous moods remains a beating heart, one that embraces the darkest moments and turns them into technicolour. ‘It’s All So Incredibly Loud’, landing halfway during the night, is an all-encompassing moment of clarity. For most bands in a big venue, it would drive the casual fans away, but here it grips them closer. It’s an astonishing skill, one that sees tears from people gathered around – both daggering and cathartic in equal measure. A band defining their own place in the global pop pantheon. Glass Animals mean a lot to a lot of people.
As frontman Dave Bayley stands on stage, the sheer sense of occasion hits him. Yes, in America there’s been those ridiculous festival topping moments (with much more to come), but tonight feels like vindication. When ‘Your Love (Deja Vu)’ sees the room move in unison, or when ‘Pork Soda’ and ‘Gooey’ see vast singalongs erupt – it means more. The bassy refrains of ‘Tokyo Drifting’ and TikTok’s own ‘Heat Waves’ (a track he notes was written 2 minutes down the road) punch on an encore that plays with a stage show of pure cinematic energy and yet still feels raw. His eyes genuinely overwhelmed as he looks out at what’s in front of him, there’s something special about tonight. Yes, they’ve played some pretty bloody big shows, but this is the moment.
Glass Animals didn’t wait to fit, but instead created their own world and welcomed everyone in. It’s more than just a band “doing well”. They’re making their own dreams now.
“We’ll never forget this” he implores, and it’s true. Glass Animals do things differently, and it’s about time we all realise that.