The road Glass Animals have found themselves on has been filled with unexpected moments. Across two standout albums, they’ve subtly gone about becoming one of the UK’s biggest breakthrough bands in countries across the globe. There have been late-night TV appearances, huge sell-out moments on both sides of the Atlantic, and storming festival slots. Their last album, ‘How To Be A Human Being’ was one of the year’s finest, a conceptual blending of styles that showed why Glass Animals are the ultimate pop cocktail. Hell, they were even the second-ever act on this here mag cover. Yet, at that moment of huge success came a life-threatening event, one that flipped the script on where things were destined to go and forced a pause on everything. Thankfully they’re back, and more than that – hungrier than ever. This is Glass Animals fully comfortable in being that band, and the queues streaming around London’s Village Underground tonight prove how missed they’ve been.
Every part of tonight feels like it’s been drenched in pure palm tree, not just because of the replicas placed all over the venue, but the sensation of it all. That genre-crossing tropical flair that has flagged Glass Animals out from the rest is welcomed back with a newfound sense of purpose. A sound that can only be them, and a reminder from the very first note why their return is a vital one. Opener ‘Tokyo Drifting’ may welcome in their undeniable new chapter, but classics and favourites ring loud and proud. ‘Life Itself’ illicits pogoing masses, ‘Poplar St’ melts into ‘The Other Side Of Paradise’ with a cinematic grandeur that immediately grips the room as epic silhouettes light large, while the slick ‘Black Mambo’ spots a band firmly on the pulse of things and building that kaleidoscope world around them. Frontman Dave Bayley is a loose-limbed master of ceremonies, a wide-eyed kid in a Skittles shop throwing shapes and feverishly giving himself to every joyous moment. The slick strains of ‘Hazey’ and chopping slices of ‘Cane Shuga’ finds him bounding from pillar to post across the stage, and when he goes through the crowd to lean on a palm tree at the back of the room to serenade Village Underground with ‘Gooey’, Glass Animals reach untouchable heights.
What comes next still remains a question, but tonight gives some tantalising teases of what to expect. ‘Tangerine’ ripples with smooth Hawaiian Hotel vibes, while ‘Your Love (Deja Vu)’ sparks with 80s synths with a sprinkling of electro twitches. What it does lay out, is that freedom Glass Animals are clearly thriving with, taking the bones of what they did with ‘How To Be A Human Being’ a revelling in the moments of interaction and scale they now see in front of them. As a communal choir of voices join Dave to ‘Season 2 Episode 3’ it’s a sign of where Glass Animals sit. Not needing to prove anything, but instead in their own actions forcing other bands to sit back and reflect on what they need to do to keep up. It’s that simple. Everyone should be taking notes.
With beaming joy written across their faces, tonight means something for Glass Animals. It’s the knowing nod before things get truly wild and the welcome return in intimate settings that lights the fuse for what’s on the horizon. The moment where things get bigger than they could have ever dreamed of all those years ago. Now it makes perfect sense, and they’ve done this all by creating a sound and show unparalleled to anyone else. The devastating centrepiece that is ‘Agnes’ rounds out proceedings in an all-encompassing emotional release, before a jubilant run through Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ and pineapple-modium taking over with ‘Pork Soda’. When the world could have thrown them into disarray, Glass Animals have instead done what they’ve always done. Embraced it, twisted it around and shot those fireworks right into the sky to light everything up around them. And what a sight it is.
Words: Jamie Muir