Livestreamed and Quarantined: Glass Animals

It’s inevitable that shows with a lot of hype will fall short in some way or another. At least, that’s how I felt about Glass Animals’ “Live In The Internet” livestream. To be fair, I didn’t actually watch the full performance, as I could only find a few clips online after the original streamed in October. However, from reading discussion posts online, it seems that others shared a similar disappointment for a few reasons.

In the weeks leading up to the performance, Dave Bayley, the lead singer of Glass Animals, was advertising the event on the band’s YouTube and Instagram pages, promising an explosive, multi-media show with guest artists, props and special effects. Moreover, the show was ticketed, which heightened the expectations even further.

Naturally, I was excited. Though Glass Animals has always been on my radar, my friends and I became fans after the release of their most recent album, “Dreamland” (2020). I was not surprised when the UK-psych pop band made it on our Spotify Wrapped summaries this year. Perhaps it was my own expectations that set me up for disappointment, but even after watching just a few minutes of “Heat Waves” in the only full video readily available online after the performance, I could tell that the show would not do their music justice.

The first thing I noticed was the echoey reverb effect used on Bayley’s voice that highlighted the fact that he was slightly out of tune, and emphasized the emptiness of the large concert venue in which they were performing. It appeared that the band was on a classic concert stage, but with an electronic backdrop filled with the screens of their fans on Zoom. The imaginativeness of this setup was impressive. 

In execution, however, it was pretty awkward. After some rumination, I believe this stems from the fact that it’s never exactly clear who Bayley’s audience is. Sometimes he would sing into the camera, while other times he ignored the camera completely, gesturing at an invisible crowd. Not once did he interact with his bandmates, who stood rather stiffly in the shadows of fake palm trees placed on either side of the stage. Close to the end of the song, Dave points and sings at the virtual fans behind him and even below him, which, to me, felt the most unnatural.

While watching this, I found myself returning to Sigmund Freud’s concept of the “uncanny,” which is loosely defined as something that feels familiar but is ever so slightly off that it becomes unsettling. Glass Animals clearly wanted this show to mimic the feeling of being at an actual concert. Unfortunately, fans reported their stream crashing midway through, which not only shattered any semblance of this being a “real” concert, but also added to the existing uncanniness of the show.

I appreciate their desire to recreate an experience that is missed by many, but after watching so many livestreams these past few months, I’ve learned that the most successful ones are not necessarily those that recreate a pre-pandemic concert experience. By now, we all know that there is no way to replicate the feeling of being in a crowd of sweaty, dancing people. Rather, I find myself craving intimate, stripped-down concerts more. I appreciate Glass Animals’ ambition with “Live In The Internet,” but they missed the mark in a way that made me miss in-person concerts even more than I already do.