Review: Glass Animals help kick off Laneway sideshows with spectacular sold out Enmore Theatre set in Sydney

Laneway Festival season is upon us and though we in Sydney have more than a week to wait before it hits our city, Wednesday marked the official start of sideshows, as bands piled in from Singapore’s Laneway over the weekend. Among them were Glass Animals, who are making their second visit to our shores in less than a year; the first since the release of their acclaimed sophomore effort How to Be a Human Being – which yesterday enjoyed no less than three entries in the triple j Hottest 100.

Kicking things off for the UK group were up-and-coming Sydney duo Polographia, who between keys, drums and a guitar that seemed to be creating effects, rather than traditional guitar sounds, delivered a truly danceable sound that made them the perfect crowd pleasers ahead of the headliners. They had the crowd moving, and with only about 20 minutes between them and the main attraction, they ensured the response from the sold out crowd for Glass Animals was, in a word, deafening.

Walking on stage to a recording of “[Premade Sandwiches]” from their latest album, the group wasted no time, jumping into one of the record’s most popular singles, “Life Itself”, which ensured the crowd was on their side the moment they walked on stage. Not that they needed any help; the audience treated the set like a night of greatest hits, applauding, cheering and singing along no matter what song the group played, be it off Zaba, their debut, or their latest effort.

Case and point: between “Gooey” and “Agnes”, which ended the main set, the crowd provided the band a cheer worthy of its own encore, leaving lead singer Dave Bayley speechless – eventually using it as an opportunity to remark on how much he and the band loved being back in Sydney, and Australia. And with a reception like that, you can’t blame ’em.

Over the last five or so years, Dave has become the consummate frontman, jumping between guitar and vocals, adding in some sweet dance moves and spending a bit of time with the front of the crowd, as he did here during tracks like “The Other Side Of Paradise” and “Gooey”. And earlier, during “Poplar St” (a highlight of the night), he built up the crowd as he played the part of the Maestro for the evening. All of this was accompanied by one of the best light shows the Enmore has seen in some time; lights behind the stage and on the side, moving to the beat and helping accentuate his presence, while a backdrop showcasing the band’s name often enjoyed a light show of its own. As the main set closed with “Agnes” and then the night with “Pork Soda”, a mirror ball was added for simple but potent effect, ensuring that the crowd was given more than just a great show musically.

Behind Dave sit three incredible musicians, two of whom jump effortlessly between different instruments and effects to achieve the band’s big, layered sound, while the lead steals most of the limelight. But Drew MacFarlane and Edmund Irwin-Singer certainly deserve a round of applause their own. Joe Seaward, their engaging drummer, meanwhile, is cleverly placed at the front of the stage, enhancing the sound, and making sure we all notice when he’s using a pineapple for percussion in “Pork Soda”. The balance between the band’s musicality, Dave’s performance and the impressive technicality of the light show, work together to make a show that will please every fan of the band – and in this all ages context, probably win a few new fans in some parents, too.

In the space of just two albums, Glass Animals have shaped themselves as one of the finest live bands of their era. Wednesday night’s show proved this in droves; with the highly energetic crowd only adding to the atmosphere of a night which delivered a spectacular light show and an enthralling frontman, all accompanied by a soundtrack that the room would have happily considered some of the best music of the last few years. It’s an opinion I couldn’t disagree with.

SETLIST:
[Premade Sandwiches]
Life Itself
Black Mambo
Hazey
Poplar St
The Other Side Of Paradise
Season 2 Episode 3
Toes
Cane Shuga
Youth
Gooey
Agnes
Encore:
Pools
Pork Soda

Glass Animals are touring Australia with Laneway Festival. For tickets to one of their festival dates, head to the official Laneway Festival Website. The band will also play one more sideshow, at the Melbourne Town Hall on 1st February. You can grab tickets for that one over on Ticketmaster.

Photo: Johnny Au

The reviewer attended the concert at the Enmore Theatre on 25th January 2017.