One of the things I admire most about Avey Tare (Dave Portner) is his lack of complacency. At no point in his solo work or as a member of Animal Collective has he adhered to expectation or perceived boundaries, and that wild card nature has often resulted in brilliance (with the occasional misstep). You’re never quite sure where he’ll evolve to next, but can rest assured it will never be boring.
Last month Avey Tare released Cows on Hourglass Pond, a record that smartly balances extroverted hooks and colorful melodies with introverted moments of subdued psychedelia and wayward journeys into the mind. It’s a curious work, where you’re floating in the ether one minute and dancing the next. I’d also call it impeccably paced. The same can be said for Tare’s sold out show at Chicago’s Co-Prosperity Sphere on Saturday night. Each song felt like a confident shift intended to keep the crowd captivated and on their toes. The trio (which included fellow Animal Collective member Deakin) played through most of the new album out of order with a couple of detours along the way, and it still resulted in a strong, cohesive statement on humanity, aging, and being good to one another.
Things got off to a strong start with “What’s the Goodside?”, which blended ambient techno and folk elements in a way that recalled the German club scene from the early ’90s. The languid beat was just enough to get heads bobbing as Tare’s heavily filtered vocals served as a siren’s song pulling you underwater before his sun-drenched acoustic guitar guided you back to the surface for another breath. Brighter still was “Remember Mayans”, as it maintained a relaxed pace while allowing the acoustic guitar to dominate the melody. Factor in the colorful and psychedelic background projections, and things got very trippy very quickly.
When the sputtering static intro of “Nostalgia in Lemonade” finally echoed a few songs into the set, it was met with a resounding cheer of excited recognition from the crowd. Not only is it one of the catchiest songs on Cows on Hourglass Pond, but the live version took things up a notch by increasing the pace and cacophony into this beautiful mess that was anchored by a deeply passionate vocal. Similarly, the 1-2 combination of “HORS_” and “K.C. Yours” made for two of the biggest highlights of the night, and sent people into the sort of energized spasms that might be called dancing if only there was enough room to actually move around freely.
The show wrapped up with the appropriately titled single “Saturdays (Again)”, a bouncy and lushly constructed acoustic number that left the crowd wanting more. Unfortunately the band either didn’t have any other songs prepared (“Two more and that’s all we’ve got,” Tare said near the end) or were forced to forego an encore due to time restrictions (the show was all ages and therefore had a curfew). I suspect it might have been a little of both. People kept cheering and chanting for one more song, but honestly after 11 or so songs and 90 minutes, what Avey Tare gave us was more than enough to satisfy.