Review - Animals As Leaders @ the Regency Ballroom (11/25/17)

Kevin Keating
Animals as Leaders - Javier Reyes, Matthew Garstka, Tosin Abasi (Photo: Kevin Keating)
Since Thursday, I've been stuffed to the gills and trying to find the motivation to make it out into the city for some life. It finally happened last night when I shook off my Thanksgiving lethargy and made it over to the Regency Ballroom for a bill that featured djent poster bands, Periphery, Animals As Leaders, and Astronoid for what was being billed as 'The Convergence Tour'. Unfortunately, instead of doors opening at 7pm like I'm used to, the Regency opened at 6pm last night, with Astronoid hitting the stage at 7! So needless to say, I missed the show openers, but got there just in time to catch 3-piece instrumentalists, Animals as Leaders.
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders (Photo: Kevin Keating)
I first started paying attention to Animals when Tosin Abasi toured with Steve Vai, Zakk Wylde, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Nuno Bettencourt during the 2016 'Generation Axe' tour (review here), and since then, have been diving deeper into the proper Animals as Leaders catalog with their most recent release The Madness of Many (iTunes). As you can see from Tosin's mini-clinic below, he's one of a new breed of guitarists who play an extended range, 8-string guitar. Here's Tosin talking a bit about his technique:

But Tosin's not the only standout in the band. Tosin's accompanied by Javier Reyes, also on an 8-string guitar, and Matthew Garstka on drums. Both of these guys are absolutely incredible with their technical precision and syncopated timing. Take a look at this recent mini-set that starts off with one of my favorites of theirs, "Ectogenesis" (iTunes):

As far as their show last night went, it was immensely better than what I remember of the last time they played San Francisco -- coincidentally, at the Social Hall, which is really just the basement of the Regency Ballroom - you can read our review of that show here. In that last show, the band gave a master class of their prog metal djent sound to a sold out crowd, but if you're familiar with the Social Hall, it's low ceiling and smallish stage, limit the acoustics and 'show' of each performance. Whereas, in the proper ballroom of the Regency, the band had much better acoustics and were able to have a stunning light show.
Javier Reyes of Animals as Leaders (Photo: Kevin Keating)
Javier, Matthew and Tosin sounded absolutely incredible as they worked their way through a 75-minute set. It's hard for me to call out any one performer in the band as they're each incredible to watch and listen to. Javier's technical chops rival Tosin's, and they each traded-off playing 'bass' or lead guitar parts all while Matthew drove the pace against what has to be a click-track in his headphones! I can't even imagine trying to play his syncopated rhythms without one!
Matthew Garstka & Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders (Photo: Kevin Keating)
They've got about another week of shows left on this tour before they close out the year, so if you're reading this from outside the Bay Area, do your best to make it to one of the last remaining dates -- you can find the specifics here. Unlike about a third of the audience last night at the Regency, if you decide to stick around for the rest of the show, you'll also get to hear a 75-minute set by Periphery, which are a solid band, but personally, I'm not a big fan of their screaming vocals.

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Animals as Leaders Setlist The Grand Ballroom at the Regency Center, San Francisco, CA, USA 2017, The Convergence Tour

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