Review: ‘Glass Animals: Live In The Internet’ tries its best to replace in-person concerts

The+Oxford+quartet+Glass+Animals+put+on+a+live+show+through+a+custom-built+livestreaming+platform+on+Thursday.+

Image via live.glassanimals.com

The Oxford quartet Glass Animals put on a live show through a custom-built livestreaming platform on Thursday.

By Lucas DiBlasi, Senior Staff Writer

Flashing lights. Closely packed throngs of people. Sprays of sweat and rain. And, of course, a band playing their hearts out. Watching recordings of Glass Animals playing live makes it clear why they — and their fans — miss live shows. Concerts are exhilarating, semi-religious opportunities for performers and viewers to connect, and they’re also currently impossible.

Impossible to stage in person, that is.

The Oxford quartet Glass Animals attempted to create the experience of a live show through a custom-built livestreaming platform last Thursday and succeeded insofar as the technology allowed. The show, billed as “Glass Animals: Live In The Internet,” encapsulating their new album’s nostalgic, ’90s-themed aesthetic, had several fun little quirks and exhibited solid performances by both the band and guests Denzel Curry and Arlo Parks. It was also their only scheduled show until their tour plans to resume in May 2021.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began to sweep through the world, there was essentially no question that concerts could not go on. People would be packed too close together for too long, yelling and sweating and singing together. Bands were, of course, frustrated to lose the close connection to their fanbase that performing live can bring, but the revenue generated from ticket and merchandise sales was also instantly lost.

While it can’t replace a tour, Glass Animals’ show last Thursday sold at least 15,000 tickets, according to Universal Music Group. The convenient merch link on the side of their website also certainly helped sell some limited-edition posters and T-shirts. But the feeling of a live show didn’t translate as well, even though the performers did all they could to make the night feel special.

For the weeks leading up to the release of their new album, “Dreamland,” and the performance of the new live show, Glass Animals’ Instagram account has been consistently posting pictures and videos of frontman Dave Bayley in ’90s-themed aesthetics. Bayley often asked fans to send him pictures of themselves decked out in their ’90s gear and listening to Walkmans, which he then reposted.

For the fans who followed Bayley’s suggestions on Instagram and created their own world for the show, turning their lights pink and tuning in early to play a video game included in the website, the show may have lived up to expectations. But there may have been more variance among audience members than there would be at a live show, where everyone’s experience is almost exactly the same.

The first song was the title track from “Dreamland,” and at first appeared to be prerecorded — the viewer could see Bayley singing along from inside a ’90s Apple computer, and the song just sounded too perfect. But then the camera zoomed out, making it clear that the band was behind Bayley, who was singing live outside of the computer as well. The reveal, made possible by the band’s well-rehearsed live chops, was a stunning opening.

From then on, the music was exceptional. The band’s excitement to be playing live again was palpable. They performed every song flawlessly, including the new ones, as well as their new mashups. At one point, one of their biggest hits from their first album, “Hazey,” transitioned into a small breakdown section that led into the newer “Hot Sugar,” with a song-specific sample queueing the switch. The seamless transition was a treat for longtime fans.

Singer-songwriter Arlo Parks joined the band to sing a beautiful verse on “Tangerine,” and Bayley announced that a new version of that song, featuring Parks, would be released at midnight. Denzel Curry joined to rap his verse on “Tokyo Drifting” from inside the same computer Bayley stood inside of at the start of the show.

The concert benefited from the often introverted feel of “Dreamland,” as there was no crowd to dance, shout or cheer at the end of songs. Since there was no crowd to banter with, and the band didn’t have to wait for an audience to quiet down at the end of songs, Glass Animals flew through their set in an hour and 10 minutes of nostalgic bliss — nostalgic for the ’90s as well as a time when they could perform live to a crowd.

“Live In The Internet” was put on four times across as many time zones, so although the show was live, it was actually recorded by the time I got to see it in the Eastern time zone. Since this was the case, when the website unfortunately crashed about halfway through the show, they were able to put up the entire show for fans to watch and rewatch for several days after it officially ended.

While some were put off by the sudden realization that the show wasn’t actually live, it’s too much to ask of a band to perform the same set four times, and into the morning of their time zone, in order to satisfy every fan across the world. Glass Animals not only went to great lengths to put on a live show during a pandemic, but to connect with fans as much as possible during the show.

The highlight of the night came during a performance of their song “Youth.” Bayley has excellent stage presence, dancing around and jumping while singing, but for “Youth,” he stayed a little more still and sang with a little more heart, while prerecorded videos of fans lip-syncing the song broadcasted across the stage.

While their show was not a perfect substitute for the real thing, for just a moment last Thursday night, Glass Animals and their fans were able to experience music together.

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