Glass Animals’ Zaba was, for my money, one of the best albums of 2014, filled with groove-ridden tunes and unfathomable lyrics to create a murky, claustrophobic whole. As a result I was understandably excited to witness their performance at Newcastle’s Riverside last week. Always late to any party, this was my first experience of the ‘new’ Riverside and I have to say I was extremely impressed. I was a regular at the old one mind. You’d often find me there, along with hundreds of other people, trying to find a decent view of the stage that wasn’t obstructed by a pillar.
Support band, local boys Kobadelta, have apparently been described by no less than The NME as ‘frantic and feral’. The frantic side I could definitely see, as an apparently mismatched bunch turned in a performance full of power and excitement. The feral element I was less sure about, mainly because it always conjures up mental pictures of pigeons or somewhat dishevelled cats.
Glass Animals certainly couldn’t be described as ‘feral’ because, notwithstanding the undoubtedly grubby edge to their music, visually the boys all looked like the kind that you wouldn’t worry about taking home to meet your mother, all school jumpers and comfy shoes, most of which are shed (shoes not jumpers) for their performance. As an over-protective parent this lack of footwear gave me cause for concern, particularly when lead singer, Dave Bayley, climbed into the audience for an inspired encore (of which more later) and ran the risk of someone in the throng standing on his toes.
Opening with ‘Black Mambo’ the band don’t quite hit their full groove until they’ve got three tunes under their collective belts, but once they do manage to find their way, with the languid ‘Gooey’ they never put a vulnerable foot wrong all night. Bayley seems to lose his shackles from this point, and, much to the consternation of a lone security man, climbs to the top of the speaker stack to perform this track.
More tracks from debut album Zaba are trotted out with the tremendously lazy ‘Hazey’ proving to be as much of a highlight live as it is on the album, and the slower ‘Cocoa Hooves’ is equally impressive, but it’s the lolloping zoo-themed ‘Toes’ that proves to be the best of the main set (although in the spirit of absolute honesty I’m still struggling to make any sense of the lyrics!)
“The last time we were in Newcastle there were about 17 people in the crowd”, Bayley announces, clearly pleased to see such a large enthusiastic crowd this time around.
I’m an absolute sucker for a killer cover version, so when Bayley vaults the barrier and joins the audience to sing Kanye’s classic ‘Love Lockdown’ as the first encore tune, I can’t help but grin. You need a sizeable talent not to be daunted by covering a track like this, but none of the band are found wanting and manage the impressive feat of making it their own. And closing with ‘Pools’ also turns out to be both a hugely popular choice and a little bit of a masterstroke as it perfectly encapsulates all that was good about a very impressive night.
Reviewer and Photographer: Neil Pace