The best thing about seeing Panda Bear, the solo project of Animal Collective's Noah Lennox, is the polish and discipline that's on display. Lennox's diligent awareness of his show's effect on audiences makes for a low probability of disappointment for his fans.
Panda Bear projected comfort and quiet self-assuredness while playing in front of the sold-out crowd at the Independent on Tuesday. His proficiency was to be expected, particularly since he rolled into town directly from performing at Coachella. The crowd embraced Lennox's downplayed demeanor, even as it clashed with his grandiose music brilliance.
Stepping onto the stage at The Independent in a simple green tee-shirt to check his equipment (a space-age-looking sound board of some sort), anyone who didn't know who he was would have mistaken him for a sound tech.
After an endearing full set from the New York electro-pop outfit Ducktails, very few attendees left their spots in the venue in anticipation of Panda Bear's performance. He walked briskly onto the stage and opened the show with a crowd favorite, "You Can Count on Me," from his critically acclaimed 2010 album, Tomboy
. Neon projections towered behind him, veering between shamanistic, humorous, and grotesque. Lennox moved into "Boys Latin," a single from his latest album, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper
. Lennox rolled through his songs with precision and showcased his angelic singing voice with ease.
He played two more songs from his current album, "Butcher Baker Candlestick Maker" and "Crosswords," before quickly flowing into "The Other Side of Paradise," a b-side from his 2014 EP, Mr. Noah
Lennox's song choices continued on in a similar fashion, as he played new material from his current album and recent EP. It was a little risky to play all new music, but no one heckled him or screamed out a request except from one d-bag (there's always one) who screamed at the quietly lionesque musician, "Play Slayer!" Lennox avoided any acknowledgement of the man, continued looking at his equipment, preparing to play his next song.
The highlight of the night was when he performed the gorgeous ballad and new single from new album, "Tropic of Cancer."
"Tropic of Cancer" is one of the best songs Panda Bear has ever written. It was clear because when he performed it, the energy of the room elevated. He drenched the entire crowd in euphoria and beauty, changing his entire relationship with the audience for a few minutes. He put his heart into the song and commanded the room's full attention.
It's not to say that Panda Bear's entire show wasn't a joy to experience from beginning to end. He did, however, make sure he had huge strobe lights flashing at different rates throughout the show. They were blinding and probably should have come with a seizure-warning.
Lennox closed out the show playing "Selfish Gene" and "Acid Wash" from the new album. He thanked the crowd with a couple of words, a nod, and a wave before walking off stage. The sold-out venue clapped and stomped for a minute before he returned to play "Alsatian Darn" and "Surfers Hymn" from Tomboy.
Panda Bear only played songs from two albums and a very recent EP, completely bypassing any music from his early catalog. Maybe it was because he was traveling light, not even playing a guitar on stage and just performing with a small but intimidating-looking soundboard. Maybe his previous album required more equipment, or maybe he's just smart enough to promote a new album when it needs to be promoted.
The show was beautiful, Panda Bear's voice and professionalism are a force to be reckoned with. It was a dose of blissful sensory overload with the potential to convert any new listener (no matter what genre their into) into loyal followers.