Animal Collective / May 13, 2009 / New York (Terminal 5)

To say Animal Collective is a band that achieves its own distinct sound doesn’t quite do it justice. The Baltimore-bred group doesn’t have so much a singular style as it does a masterful ability to bend, distort and toy with your mind in a way that always feels new. Sure, this is the stuff DJs and jam bands have been doing for decades, but in the case of Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist--the current three-piece line-up that forms Animal Collective--there’s a transformative quality to the music that only seems to get better with time.

The group’s sold-out show at New York’s Terminal 5 on Wednesday (May 13) showed just how adept the band has grown in its ability to reshape and rework its catalog, from the slowed-down, mind-melting retuning of opener “Chocolate Girls” (off the group’s 2000 debut, “Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished”) to the tripped-out tempo shifts shaking up “Summertime Clothes," from January’s “Merriweather Post Pavilion.” For a band that has long used the live setting as a vehicle to test out new material, here it was ready to show fans just how skilled it is at molding what it already has.

Which also meant that a familiarized audience was more engaged with Animal Collective's set, responding particularly well to the more playful and accessible “MPP” tracks like “My Girls” and “Brother Sport,” which closed out the show in a thumping rave-up.

While Animal Collective let its freak flag fly during "Slippi," a track from 2003's "Here Come the Indians," “Guys Eyes” and “Fireworks” were an all-consuming experience. The latter unfolded in a trance-like fashion that felt like a kind of sick mind game.

The vocal play between singers Avey Tare and Panda Bear was a key element in maintaining the set’s cohesive feel, as both fed off of each other with smart, well-timed shouts and yelps in between songs.

Venue-wise, Terminal 5 could be considered a far less than ideal setting for a band that has tore the roof off smaller stages like Bowery Ballroom; but judging by the packed house and its warm reception, the Animal Collective boys are poised only to move on to bigger and bigger things.

Here is Animal Collective's setlist:

“Chocolate Girl”
“My Girls”
“Also Frightened”
“Summertime Clothes”
“Slippi”
“What Would I Want Sky”
“Guys Eyes”
“Comfy in Nautica”
“Fireworks”
“Leaf House”

Encore

“Bleed”
“Lion in a Coma”
“Brother Sport”