When the lights dimmed at Webster Hall on Saturday night (1/21), Matthew Kelly and Keith Goodwin walked to the front of the stage, and--backed only by Matt Embree on atmospheric synths--went into "Wolf" from Apeshit, the first release in 14 years by the experimental post-hardcore supergroup The Sound of Animals Fighting. With only three of the eight members on stage and not a guitar in sight, it was the calm before the storm, a gorgeous, suspenseful way to begin an evening that would quickly take a much more intense turn. As the song's final note rang out, Matthew and Keith left, Matt grabbed his guitar, and Anthony Green, Rich Balling, Steve Choi, Jonathan Hischke, and Chris Tsagakis all walked out. Light poles lit up behind the band, Anthony spun illuminated circles in the air as he swung a mic with a lantern attached, and Chris Tsagakis went into the thunderous drum part that begins Apeshit's title track. It's the band's most in-your-face song since their 2005 debut Tiger and the Duke, and The Sound of Animals Fighting really brought it to life at Webster Hall. From the light show to the band's inhumanly tight performance to Anthony Green hovering over the crowd and screaming his head off, it was a full-on sensory overload, and it was clear right off the bat that this show--the band's first time playing NYC in four years and third time ever--would be yet another special one.

The band's performance continued to ebb and flow throughout the night, with heavy, intense songs like "Chasing Suns" and "All Is Ash or the Light Shining Through It" right up against more ethereal songs like "This Heat" and "My Horse Must Lose," with lead vocalists coming and going, without a single moment that didn't have the crowd in a daze. TSOAF may have started off as a studio act that only played two shows during the first eight years of their career, but as immortalized in 2007's We Must Become the Change We Want to See film, they're an absolute force on stage too. Watching the chemistry between instrumentalists Matt Embree, Steve Choi, Chris Tsagakis, and Jonathan Hischke (the former three of whom are also the core members of Rx Bandits) is--at the risk of sounding hyperbolic--genuinely jaw-dropping. They're all players with a remarkable amount of technical prowess and the ability to sync up with each other seamlessly, but nothing is ever show-offy and every note counts. Even more so than how impressive it is to watch is how much power they have as a unit. It's the way you feel their rhythms and melodies in your bones. And Anthony Green (whose beloved band Circa Survive sadly just went on hiatus but who's been very busy with both his solo project and his new supergroup L.S. Dunes) has been on fire lately and this show was no different. He gave some of the most impassioned performances I've ever seen him give, and he expressed multiple times throughout the set how forever grateful he and the rest of the band are to still get the chance to do this for such loving crowds. With their unique four-vocalist setup, it's thrilling to watch the ways they rotate, feed off of each other, and support each other. Rich Balling reads spoken word from an old book as someone else sings. Anthony takes center stage one song, and the next he's swaying and sharing a mic with Keith Goodwin providing background counterpoint to Matthew Kelly on "The Heretic." On the psychedelic standout "Skullflower," he and Keith melded their voices into one.

The aughts-era classics made for so many of the set's highlights, but, for the first time since TSOAF became a touring band, they had new material to play, and just as the set began with "Wolf" and "Apeshit" from the new EP, it ended with that EP's "Sharon Tate, Despite Everything." It made for one of the most intense moments of the night, and it really proved that The Sound of Animals Fighting are no nostalgia act. They played it with at least as much fervor as they played the classics, and you could tell their fans are already fully into the new material. The new EP is just a brief four songs, and I doubt I'm alone in saying that watching the band go off to those songs on stage left me hungry for more.

The show was opened by two bands signed to TSOAF's former label Equal Vision, Concrete Castles (who have a song featuring Anthony Green) and Hail the Sun (whose singer Donovan Melero guests on Rich Balling's new Hospital Gown album), and Wstdyth DJed between sets. I missed Concrete Castles but did catch Hail the Sun, and they were a perfectly matched opener. Their take on progressive post-hardcore sounds clearly influenced by TSOAF, and it's clear that the band's share fanbases too; the room was already full for them and a lot of people came ready to mosh and yell along. (Kitty was also supposed to play, but sadly had to drop off the tour after their van was robbed.)

The Sound of Animals Fighting's tour wraps up in Philly tonight (1/22) at Franklin Music Hall. Check out some fan-shot videos and the setlist from Webster Hall below.

The Sound of Animals Fighting @ Webster Hall - 1/21/2023 Setlist
I, the Swan
Act I: Chasing Suns
Act II: All Is Ash or the Light Shining Through It
This Heat
My Horse Must Lose
Another Leather Lung
Blessings Be Yours Mister V
On the Occasion of Wet Snow
The Heretic
Act III: Modulate Back to the Tonic
Act IV: You Don't Need a Witness

The Heraldic Beak of the Manufacturer's Medallion
Stockhausen, es ist Ihr Gehirn, das ich suche
Sharon Tate, Despite Everything

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