Glass Animals prove they’re one of the best live acts around

Glass Animals have been on my radar ever since the release of the infectious Gooey, followed by their wonderful debut album ZABA. Their trip-hop-ish, R&B-influenced blend of low beats, sensual melodies and hip-swingin’ rhythms got me hook, line and sinker, and they fast became one of my most listened to acts of 2014. I missed the UK four-piece last time they visited Australia, so it was great to get the chance to see them at Falls Festival Byron, and again at the Hi-Fi in Sydney.

Opening for GA in Sydney was Grace, a Perth-based artist who recently emerged from a past life as an acoustic folk singer, with a more experimental sound, a demure look and the kind of music that instantly made me think, ‘wow, this girl is gonna be everywhere.’ (Read our Q&A with Grace here) Playing to an impressively packed crowd, she did not disappoint. In 30 minutes we were treated to a myriad sounds and styles, showcasing a few different angles of Grace and the music she’s been making. It was the perfect opener – her music is interesting, a little dark, sensual and strange, all the while completely captivating.  Ending on her lead single Pluto, I guarantee we’ll be hearing a lot more from her in 2015.

Glass Animals are the kind of band that slot perfectly into both a festival and solo show. Their set in Byron Bay got the full tent dancing from start to end, despite the ridiculous heat and the early afternoon time slot – and their Friday night Sydney show was no different.

The stage was adorned by huge palm fronds, and the smokey green lighting gave off a rainforest vibe. Eerie sound effects started the headline set, as the four-piece took to the stage. Frontman Dave Bayley has bundles of energy and a phenomenal stage presence, equally wild and seductive. From the first moments, he drew in the crowd, get them moving around and totally engaged for the whole time. It’s the kind of frontman performance usually reserved for rappers, heavier rock or 14 year old kids who ate too much sugar. It was a stark contrast against the rest of the band (who couldn’t really move at all, considering their instruments were mostly drums and keys) and a delight to watch.

Any band with only one album face limitations during a live show, but both gigs were totally fresh and unique. Captivating, a little raunchy and buckets of fun, lead singles Gooey and Pools really got the audience singing along, but the dance floor was moving the entire time. After returning for an encore, the four-piece launched into their Like a Version cover of kanye’s Love Lockdown. Absolutely one of my favourite LAV’s ever, it was even better live – oh, dat bass!

My main criticism of ZABA was that a few elements tended to fly under the radar. Some of their ‘signature’ features blended together, making a few tracks sound fairly samey. This totally changed during their live show. Everything you miss on the album – hidden moments, scintillating subtleties, booming bass and swish rhythms really came out to play. What I really loved, though, were the psychedelic guitar freak-outs; completely hypnotic scratches and fuzzes, mesmerising, loud, and so exciting.

It can be daunting to catch a band who you’ve listened to so many times over the past year, but Glass Animals didn’t come close to disappointing. They dazzled, they delighted, and I can’t wait to see them again.