Live review: Panda Bear
Heaven, London Thursday, March 11
His stage name might be that of a fluffy, poorly evolved and undersexed creature, but Noah Lennox’s balls really must be the size of a rhino’s. Though their minds may be gallantly open tonight, Panda’s fans are ultimately here to lose themselves in the ecstatic fug of his [b]‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’[/b]-shaping album [b]‘Person Pitch’[/b]. A terrific re-run of The Beach Boys for a post-rave generation, it was so kaleidoscopic it sent anyone with synaesthesia into a tailspin. But, true to the spirit of his awkward and counter-instinctive power animal, he won’t be playing anything from that tonight. Well, aside from one song that no-one was much cared about anyway (the suitably titled [b]‘I’m Not’[/b]).
Gone are the days when kids would riot at gigs if bands had the temerity to try out a new barre chord, but still… To play a rare, massively anticipated date, fill it with new songs and moreover, to begin such a challenge with the brutally stark cold wave of [b]‘Drone’[/b] (an icy two-note synth piece Lennox mostly yelps through), would give most performers the willies. At the very least they’d expect to lose sizeable chunks of their audience.
But this is a man whose solo debut, [b]‘Young Prayer’[/b], was a devotional to his dead dad, featuring little more than a pained yowling. Lennox’s improvising ways with [a]Animal Collective[/a] have prepared us well for his method. It’s fine. However hard and bloody the beating, he always bears gifts, after all.
After ‘Drone’ comes the title track from upcoming album [b]‘Tomboy’[/b]. Helmed by an EBM beat and grunge guitar, it’s not pretty but, like the opener, it displays a new weapon: urgency. Everything tonight is tinted with this compelling aggression, from Aphex-like glitch to the jetplane intro of [b]‘Benfica’[/b]. It’s a refreshing antidote to his now much-copied woozy, washed-out sound.
But even if he’s turning a huffy shoulder on the chillwave blog love-in of his stylistic descendents, Panda’s knack for squeezing colour from melody means we don’t have to wait long for his opening to grow into something sublime. [b]‘Surfers’ Hymn’[/b] twinkles with looped electronics and juju guitar, [b]‘Last Night At The Jetty’[/b] sees him turn into a leftfield Julie Andrews, while [b]‘Bullseye’[/b], with its psychedelic G-funk groove, could be the catchiest thing he’s ever done. No fluffy-wuffy laurel-resting to be found here, then; this thrilling reacquaintance proves that Panda Bear takes to this evolving lark better than you might think.