A storm may have been raging in the north of England last night, but you wouldn’t have known once inside the tropical-tinged interior of Manchester’s Gorilla. Transformed into a summery paradise, the stage at the intimate 600-capacity venue is adorned with palm trees, pineapples and sun-kissed lighting as Glass Animals made a welcome – and emotive – return to touring.
It’s been a traumatic 18 months for the Oxford quartet, following the serious injury of drummer Joe Seaward after an accident in the summer of 2018. Hit by a truck whilst cycling in Dublin, Seaward suffered brain damage and was forced to undergo two operations to repair a fractured skull and a broken leg. During his rehabilitation, Seaward had to learn to walk, talk and read again.
It was perhaps no surprise then, that the loudest and longest audience ovation is reserved for Seaward when he finally appeared on stage and thrust latest release (the dancehall-leaning ‘Tokyo Drifting’) into life with his typically energetic and uplifting percussion. “The recently recovered Mr Joe Seaward everybody!” frontman David Bayley bellows. “He’s killing it.” An extended applause leaves everybody, band and audience, looking visibly moved. “It’s good to be back,” an emotional Seaward replied.
With infectious, sun-kissed melodies that delight in twisting pop and indie out of any recognisable shape, Glass Animals are a real treat to have back. “This is our first show in a really long time…we’ve been in the studio a bit. Shall we try some new shit?” Seaward teases before the debut of ‘Your Love (Deja Vu)’ – the band’s upcoming second single. Erupting into a colourful collage of sunny R&B, dance and electronica, the Calypso-tinged melody impresses as does fellow newbie, the mid-tempo ‘Tangerine’.
Elsewhere, fans were treated to a career-spanning set of hits. The frenetic and propulsive ‘Life Itself’ feels like a cathartic release for the group after their long hiatus as does the tenderly upbeat ‘Youth’, which delivers a familiar warm hug to fans.
The enigmatic twinkling of ‘Black Mambo’ and the genre-twisting ‘Season 2, Episode 3,’ reminds fans of the group’s inventiveness and the dizzy heights that Bayley’s pitch-perfect falsetto can reach. Edmund Irwin-Singer and Drew MacFarlane’s edgy guitars thrill as songs from their Mercury nominated ‘How To Be A Human’ dominate the second half of the set. It culminates in the affecting ‘Agnes’, a gut-wrenching ode to a friend the band lost some years earlier.
Meanwhile, a seamless segue from ‘Poplar Street’ to ‘The Other Side of Paradise’ sees Bayley variously twist, lunge and pirouette across the stage with his typically breathless and tireless style. For the sultry and ethereal ‘Gooey’, Bayley moves to the back of the venue, filming the crowd as he himself is lit up by a sea of surrounding mobile phones. A cover of Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ is a surprise and fun highlight, as is set closer ‘Pork Soda’, where pineapples aplenty appeared in the audience in celebration of the song’s famed refrain.
“It’s so good to be back…I was a bit nervous about tonight,” Bayley said towards the end: but he needn’t have been. This is a triumphant return from one of the UK’s most innovative bands – whose older material has aged well in a climate more used to genre-splicing than at the time of their debut. Their new material shows even more thrilling leaps forward. Here’s to whatever they do next.
Glass Animals’ setlist was:
The Other Side of Paradise
Your Love (Deja Vu)
Season 2, Episode 3