Grizzly Bear @ The Hollywood Palladium 10/20/09
Maybe the greatest thing about Grizzly Bear, the thing that everyone should know, is this: They are totally enigmatic and impossible to pin down. Of course, this is what makes them difficult to write about and even more difficult to consider what it is that makes this foursome so appealing.
But appealing they are. Backed by a score of firefly lights, and an orchestral touch, the Brooklyn-based quartet played to a nearly-sold out audience Tuesday night at the Palladium in Hollywood, showcasing exactly why they are one of the greatest alternative bands in America right now. Tuesday night's Live Nation show was less a showcase of their present - though the tour is in support of their newest album - but an offering of how far they've come as a musical ensemble.
It's true, as one fan pointed out, that Grizzly Bear will not wow you with personality (on stage, that is. Online is a different matter). Having just seen The Decemberists the night before, this concert goer pointed at that lead singers Ed Droste and Daniel Rosen won't gab the audience as much Colin Meloy might and that Grizzly Bear is not prone to expansive costumes and props. But, as she conceded, their sound is utterly gorgeous and their visual stage appeal is completely captivating.
Opening the set with "Southern Point," the lead track from this year's Veckatimist, the band moved slowly with slight hints of the light show to come. A hungry crowd roared as dancing drum beats and the underlying bass strums of Christopher Bear and Chris Taylor welcomed us gently. Guitarist/vocalist Rosen joined in, followed by Droste as he and Taylor's arching backup vocals began to envelop the blue-lit stage as the four worked up to a musical crescendo. Ninety seconds in, the stage turned black, save for the dozens of firefly jars, each lit with an old fashioned bulb splayed about the stage like a mitochondrial experiment from 1926. Enter the chorus, a tambourine, crashing drums and a jolt of energy that whipped the throng into a frenzy before undulating to a stop and starting again.
The show was only four minutes old, but this moving throng of a crowd drank up the fluttering display of beautiful music, lights and instrumentation.
"Cheerleader" was next and with it came further proof that their opening track, like their break-through Yellow House, was no fluke. On a stage doused in jazzy blue and electric green, Droste sang "There's no time to go/through the designs we know." It's a statement that held no merit Tuesday from a band that is as concerned about the visual portion of their live performance as they are the audio in studio.
Through 90-minutes, the band crafted a performance built on half a decade of work that stretched from its rugged debut Horn of Plenty to the inimitable Yellow House and this year's Veckatimest. Also included were two songs from the 2008 EP Friend - the new version of "Alligator" and "He Hit Me," the last song of the night, which Rosen dedicated to his brother.
Highlights included "Don't make me beg," from Veckatimest and "Colorado," which closes Yellow House. The former exhibited the band's stunning attention to detail and infusion of orchestrally layered arrangements with a pinch of spiked rock in which feet tapped and heads bobbed. The latter was a methodical build of an inquisitive song featuring the mantra, "What now?" repeated over and over. Each song soared in the relatively newly remodeled Palladium, where sound bounces off rounded panels that float high above a hardwood floor.
When "Colorado," debuted three years ago, the question of what would be next for Grizzly Bear was apt. Their music inherently held little mass appeal, exemplified by beautifully layered songs about life's otherwise useless objects: doing the dishes, frozen pipes and good jam. What would become of the band critics at the time called "awe inspiringly huge?" Now, we know. Grizzly Bear would go on to cement their reputation with two subsequent works of art and a live show that is typically gorgeous for both the eyes and the ears.