Animals As Leaders @ Sound Control
Who needs a lead singer anyway?
Words: Phil Weller | Photos: Anthony Firmin
“No lead singers were harmed in the making of this concert,” smiles the chiselled figure of Tosin Abasi. He stands before a packed and stuffy Sound Control, the audience hanging on his every word and every dextrous sweep of his fingers. Treated tonight to three high quality instrumental bands, singers are surplus to requirements; it’s the music that does all the talking.
Sydney born Plini  conjured a set that found an airy tranquillity in amongst an abundance of blurred notes and jolting, syncopating rhythms. A player all about groove, he always has his eye on the bigger picture with his songs and so this set was never about flaunting his envious abilities as it so easily could have been. Instead he unravels an atmosphere that has you mellowed out and transfixed, warming the crowd’s veritable cockles in the process. Songs like Moonflower dance betwixt algorithmic djent rhythms and melodies that float like sycamore seed on its gracious decent to boggy, autumnal earth.
In contrast, what Intervals  then provided was a higher octane, more in your face assault of rhythms that sound like a bouncy ball thrown into a pinball machine and a kingly feast of solos. Hand in hand the two sets were the perfect compliment to each other, frantic drum work here the centre point for the unshackled musicality to whirl around and get the crowd moving. Aaron Marshall was instrumental in ramping up the crowd and, with an endless array of tricks up his sleeve, the set always remained interesting. The main riff in Sure Shot, taken from latest album The Shape Of Colour a technically ravished groove monster that had us in awe.
Despite all that proceeded however, nothing could prepare us for the multi-linguistic joyride through the rich language of music that is Animals As Leaders . From Alan Holdsworth and John Mclaughlin inspired smooth jazz soundscapes to the abrasive, 8 string djent cacophonies and mind boggling sweep picking, Abasi’s fingers both caressing and avalanching down up his fretboard at the same time, this was a sight to behold. The power and the punch that their live sound has knocks the stuffing out of you and the playing, before a room populated almost entirely by guitarists, has everyone determined to work on your chops when they get home.
Tooth And Claw fluctuates fluently between the modern warfare of low end grooves and lead playing that is to guitarists what Latin is to linguists; complex and beautiful. Further exemplifying the fact lead singers aren’t needed tonight, Ka$cade has the crowd singing along to its thumping main theme, the deft and simply daft meanders that weave in and out of it meanwhile have you shaking your head in disbelief.
“Y’all are sick,” Abasi tells the room mid-set. Every song is greeted with roars of excitement and enthusiasm. Every note draws emotional and physical responses from the crowd brilliantly. Even when the click track goes to pot on Mind Spun, causing them to ditch the song halfway through, nothing can deter the night from its course to the upper echelons of live performances in 2016. They end with Cafo and as it unfurls you can’t help but stand and admire arguably the most modernistic and inventive guitar players of today. It may be a well-worn and oft over use phrased in musical journalism, but let that not devalue the power of the statement with regards to Tosin Abasi: He really is one of a kind.