By Cameron Lee
September 6, 2021
Live concerts and large gatherings continue to be a point of contention for many since the onset of the pandemic and the recent surge of the Covid-19 Delta variant. While Labor Day weekend brought the masses to Charlotte for the kickoff of college football, UK indie rockers Glass Animals brought their bouncy brand of synthy electro-pop to Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre. But, unlike the hundreds of thousands across the country that filled football stadiums, all attendees of the sold-out concert were required to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test. There was even on-site testing outside of the venue.
It was a picturesque evening with a cooler-than-normal late summer backdrop as the youthful and lively crowd trickled in for opener Binki. Baraka Ongeri, better known by his stage name Binki, has seen a brisk rise with his music since graduating from UNC Greensboro in 2018 with a theatre degree. Transitioning from acting to music shortly after graduating, Binki released his first single, “Marco,” and moved to New York City. Signed to the FADER Label (Clairo, Lewis Del Mar, Matt and Kim), he released his debut EP MOTOR FUNCTION in August and has amassed millions of streams from the momentum of TikTok and Spotify playlists.
Opening for an international touring act like Glass Animals can be a daunting task for an up-and-coming artist, but Binki charmed the crowd with his disco-y tracks like “Heybb!” (a song recently featured in a 2020 Apple iPad ad campaign) and the indie rockish, “Clay Pigeon.” He even broke out some props and magic tricks during his set to lighten the mood as he rifled through his short but promising catalog.
Glass Animals walked onto the stage to a screeching applause. The UK psychedelic pop outfit fronted by Dave Bayley was slated to play Bonnaroo on Friday night before it was cancelled due to rain from Hurricane Ida, kicking off their U.S. tour at Carrboro’s Cat’s Cradle Back Yard venue on August 28. After the whimsical keys started playing from the title track of their latest album, Dreamland, the applause subsided and Bayley simply stated, “Hello, everyone. It’s so good to be back.”
Lights and psychedelic visuals illuminated the stage, mimicking the trippy album cover for Dreamland. After the “Dreamland” intro, Bayley picked up his guitar and shouted, “Are you guys ready?” queuing the rumbling drums for “Life Itself,” and the dance party ensued. Dropping the guitar and twirling around the stage for the bouncy pop number “Tangerine,” with a Pac-Man animation playing on the screen in the background, the group dazzled the youthful audience from the jump.
Glass Animals often remixes and plays different iterations of songs for their live shows. “Black Mambo,” their breakout 2013 track, for example, was extended with more of a jammy guitar rendition. For one of their most hip-hop-influenced tracks, “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” the finger-snapping tight beat laid the foundation while Bayley rhymed about “playing too much of that GTA” and “listening too much to that Dr. Dre.” The references are probably a nod to his childhood, as Dreamland is the first autobiographical album entirely produced by Bayley.
The mood and stage darkened for arguably their most recognizable song, “Gooey,” the haunting platinum-certified track from their debut studio album, Zaba, in 2014.
Departing the stage briefly before the roaring cheers, the group trotted back on stage for an encore and Bayley humbly asked the crowd: “Can we do a couple more?” The thumping 808s of “Tokyo Drifting” dropped, a song that normally features Denzel Curry with an emphatic verse on the horn-driven beat. For their finale, the alluring “Heat Waves” had concertgoers swaying, dancing and even prompted a sing-a-long moment with the lyrics flashing on the screen capping off a dreamy early September concert experience.
Check out the remaining dates for the Glass Animals Dreamland tour.
“The Other Side of Paradise”
“Space Ghost Coast to Coast”
“It’s All So Incredibly Loud”
“Your Love (Déjà Vu)”
“Take a Slice”