The threesome of Brits known as Animal Kingdom staggered into the coolest bar in the Empire State’s capital city on Monday night to perform their emo-sounding alt rock quite reminiscent of Mew thanks to singer Richard Sauberlich’s falsetto vocal and the bands moody precision (this band often gets lumped together with the likes of Coldplay and Snow Patrol, but the actual sound of their tunes refutes this claim). Although much less eclectic than the Danish group Mew, the guys in Animal Kingdom certainly provide some highly structured melancholic and thoughtful moments found in both their live show and new album The Looking Away. The show might also rank as the most memorable of the year thanks to the wild mismatch between the opening act and the headliner.
The opener for Animal Kingdom was the spirited Royal Teeth from New Orleans (apparently a replacement for the Canadian band Eight and a Half), and I would be hard pressed to find an act more dissimilar to Animal Kingdom. The world definitely needs another attractive, talented red headed female singing and playing percussion for an aggressively enthusiastic rock band from New Orleans, and Royal Teeth nicely accommodates with Nora Patterson who looks great and harmonizes even better with co-singer and percussionist (in fact the entire band act as co-percussionist) Gary Larsen. For a moment, I thought fellow Louisiana band Givers had taken the stage because from the outset the sextet assaulted the lively audience with eight songs’ worth of the kind of zydeco-esque, big percussion brand of alternative rock found on the Givers brilliant debut album last year.
Unlike the southern, back swamp grittiness that Givers exhibit, Royal Teeth is all smiles and sunshine – Larsen’s boyish good looks and voice peg him for a member of a 90s boy band – which is a good thing because his aggressive, poppy vocals and infectious hooks were a perfect accompaniment to the percussive, party rock. For me the best moments of the set were found in the band’s impressively unexpected cover of The Knife’s “Heartbeats,” and the killer hook in the set’s sixth song (Larsen mentioned it was a newer song not included in their nice ep Act Naturally). Royal Teeth closed with one of the most amusing scenes I’ve seen as of late at a rock show when Larsen carried his tom-tom from the stage to the floor and spent their final song alternating between playing both percussive strokes and with the bevy of adoring college chicks, followed soon thereafter by the outpouring of confetti into the crowd at the end of the final number. The entire set was a chaotic, drubbing, disorienting, hot mess – in short, I loved it.
I found videos on Youtube featuring a performance of The Knife cover and a new music video for the tune “My Donna.”
Animal Kingdom toned it down a notch from Royal Teeth to provide a fascinating set as well as an amusing contrast between a bunch of party-hungry kids from New Orleans and seriously methodical and subdued Brits. Although considerably lower key, Animal Kingdom’s eight song set was just as interesting for its technical sophistication and somber mood. The bands drummer, Geoff Lea, lays down some interesting beats while simultaneously playing a percussion machine and synths. Yet, Sauberlich’s upper octave voice and high pitched guitar riffs paired with Hamish Crombie’s (you gotta luv this guy just for his name) droning bass managed to lighten the mood when necessary. They began the set with a few songs from their first album Signs and Wonders including the title track and “Tin Man,” after which the band poured through some of the tunes on the new album. Highlights of the show were the performance of the awesome single “Strange Attractor” from the new album (and the closer) and the higher tempo “Everything at Once.” I also loved Lea’s multitasking between drums, synths, and drum machine during “The Wave.”
Animal Kingdom will roll into SLC on August 9 at Kilby Court, and I recommend checking them out.
Here is some pretty impressive video from the show taken by a young man named Ben Davis of “Strange Attractor.”