Grizzly Bear roar with sweet sounds

A review of Grizzly Bear at the Orpheum Theatre on October 8, 2009

, Staff Writer

Grizzly Bear have been on the radar since 2006’s White House, which was quickly hailed as one of the best albums of the year and had listeners eagerly awaiting their follow-up. Miraculously, the band managed to live up to the expectations with the release of Veckatimest earlier this year. On tour to support their stellar new release, Grizzly Bear stopped by the Orpheum Theater last week for a sold-out show.

The Orpheum proved to be both a blessing and a curse for the band, when all was said and done. On one hand, Grizzly Bear’s intimate, psychedelic chamber rock was well-suited to a seated venue, allowing audience members to really sit and listen to what was going on around them. On the other hand, though, the energy throughout the room did feel a bit listless as the night wore on. Acoustically, the Orpheum didn’t help Grizzly Bear out very much, either: though the reverb was perfect for the layers of sound the band mounts on top of each other, vocals came out a bit muffled from time to time, and multi-instrumentalist Chris Taylor’s various wind instruments didn’t sound out as cleanly as they could have.

The show started with “Southern Point”, which opens Veckatimest, and quickly established the band’s aesthetic for the evening: a sort of plodding pace, very deliberate grooves and textures coming from the band, who really took their time in letting a song develop. “Cheerleader” was a great example of how they’re able to keep things interesting without too much flourish. The song’s base rhythm is slow and minimal, but made intriguing by the really intricate layering on top of it. Every member of the band can sing well, so there was no shortage of vocal harmonies, and the band also very willingly manipulates their voices while on stage: Taylor’s crooning phased and repeated beautifully during a wonderful rendition of “Knife”, which expands into thick harmonies in between verses, nicely showing off everyone’s vocal chops.

Of course, the tune that brought the biggest cheers was “Two Weeks”, which is far and away the band’s catchiest song. Daniel Rossen’s bouncy keyboard work laid down a consistent stream of notes, around which Christopher Bear’s drumming danced. Vocals faded in and out almost hauntingly, filling the Orpheum with spot-on pitch. To close, we were given a solid performance of “While You Wait For Others”, the second single from Veckatimest, another catchy tune with a slight swing to it, followed by “On A Neck, On A Spit” to end the evening.

Overall, the tenacity and nitpicky details that Grizzly Bear put into their studio work translates quite well to the live stage. The songs are by no means stripped down (if anything, even more is added on top). Every performer is completely on top of his game. It does seem like their shows are very carefully laid-out, from first note to last, which leaves much less room for the spontaneity that can go down at shows. Though with music as complex and demanding as Grizzly Bear’s, the band can’t be blamed for not wanting to leave things to chance.

Leave a Reply