Panda Bear - Teatro Maria Matos, Lisbon - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Panda Bear - Teatro Maria Matos, Lisbon

by Alexis Somerville Rating:9 Release Date:2012-01-15

Panda Bear, aka Noah Lennox, moved to Lisbon in 2004, after visiting on tour with Animal Collective and meeting the woman who later became his wife. He was immediately attracted to the Portuguese capital, and it’s easy to see why; Lisbon is a city of cheerful, pastel-coloured buildings spilling out over seven hills, overlooking the glittering River Tejo. There are also sandy beaches nearby (which seems apt for a musician influenced by Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys).*


His latest album, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, continues the development of Lennox’ sound heard on previous solo offerings, and ranges in ambience from recklessly joyous to mellow and poignant. The tracks showcase his impressive vocal melodies over swirling beats and ghostly synths. The album has been very well-received, even by those previously cynical about post-Animal Collective output. The set tonight is heavily made up of these new songs, with rare nods to past albums.


The gig takes place at Teatro Maria Matos, which is more often used for dance and theatrical performances than for concerts. Everyone is seated and directing their attention to the unassuming man on the stage as he stands behind his laptop, in front of a projected screen. First track ‘You Can Count On Me’ sets up the immersive audiovisual experience. Throughout the gig, images ebb and flow across the screen, incorporating everything from psychedelic swirls to a slithering alien lady.


The opener is followed by ‘Boys’ Latin’, the second single from the new album, in which Lennox’ vocals resemble yodelling over a catchy, pulsing beat. Next up is ‘Butcher Baker Candlestick Maker’ which takes the vocals up a notch volume-wise, getting distinctly louder with the chorus and its repeated line: “Well you really shouldn’t bring that other guy.”


The mesmerising ‘Come to Your Senses’ segues beautifully into the affecting harp-led ‘Tropic of Cancer’, as it does on the album. He also plays ‘Crosswords’, ‘Sequential Circuits’, ‘Selfish Gene’ and more from Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper. Yes, he pretty much plays the whole album, with the exception of a few tracks. Which is great because, y’know, it’s a really good album.


Among the album tracks are a couple from the Mr Noah EP, including ‘This Side of Paradise’. References to sinking ships and swimming fish combine with a general feeling of being submerged in water, emphasised by the hypnotic live performance. ‘Acid Wash’, the final track of the main set, is accompanied by a video of a woman with the emotionless eyes of a mime, her image multiplied as she vomits and smiles on a loop.


Lennox leaves the stage while the crowd remains seated, cheering wildly and demanding an encore, which he duly provides in the form of ‘Last Night at the Jetty’ and ‘Surfer’s Hymn’ from 2011’s Tomboy. He isn’t known for being an outgoing or interactive performer and tonight is no exception. His onstage chat is restricted to "Goodnight" and "Thank you" in Portuguese before exiting.


Everyone files out in a civilised manner. Lennox presumably returns to his family and his own home, a surreal blip in the midst of this tour of Europe and the US.


An excellent songwriter and performer who comes replete with spellbinding visuals, there is still time to catch Panda Bear on the Grim Reaper tour before he returns home once more.


*Your reviewer has recently made the same move and is not, in fact, on the Lisbon tourist board.

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