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Grizzly Bear Comes To Life At The Greek Theatre – 10/10

Lilian Min |
October 11, 2012 | 8:33 a.m. PDT

Music Editor

Sound is a tricky thing, especially when it comes to recorded music. As quality as a recording can be, there exists a “je ne sais quoi” about live music that can best be described as electric—harmonies sound more harmonious, melodies sound more melodious, and bass and drum rumbles have more growl, more kick.

That effect was in existence when Grizzly Bear played their standout set at the Greek Theatre on Wednesday night. 

SEE ALSO: Furthur at the Greek Theatre – 10/5

The ensemble band made waves recently when a New York Magazine feature painted them as an artistically genius, yet commercially defeated band. Grizzly Bear became a poster child for the idea that modern music fans have no devotion, at least not in a monetary sense, to their musical idols.

But the atmosphere at Wednesday’s show was anything but complacent, and the band bid their US/Canadian tour farewell with a show that rifled through and showcased their extensive eclectic catalogue. 

Attendees all seemed to have conformed to a “generic hipster” dress code, but it was not just the city’s alt types that came out to see these Brooklyn-born artists at work. Hip-hop iconoclast Tyler the Creator was in attendance, as well as actress Portia de Rossi.

The stage was set up with a field of what looked like electric paper lanterns in the back, and throughout the show, these lanterns would move up, down, and across the expanse of the stage, forming patterns both by their physical placements and the sequence 

Grizzly Bear’s actual setlist was a mishmash of hits (relatively speaking) and gems from their four studio albums. Some of the songs did come off of the newly released “Shields,” such as singles “Sleeping Ute” and “Yet Again.”

However, even more of the songs came from previous albums. At least one song even came from their debut album, “Horn of Plenty”: the beautifully depressing “Shift,” which featured an authentic whistling solo. (Peter Bjorn & John, rebuttal?)

But it seemed as though third album “Veckatimest” dominated the set list, as songs like “Cheerleader” and “Ready, Able” got the crowd bobbing along. The band specifically played “I Live With You” after bandsman Ed Droste shared, “This is for the girl on Twitter who insisted we play this song.”

Droste also addressed the crowd as the band prepared to play “Two Weeks,” mentioning that two of his young cousins were in the audience and that they, as well as the rest of the crowd, should dance along.

Droste was not the only member of the band to speak to the packed amphitheatre. Chris Bear, Chris Taylor, and Daniel Rossen all gave shoutouts to the opening act, Lower Dens, and to the very vocal and cheerful crowd. But it was Droste who interacted with the concert goers the most.

“I can smell that some of you are having a nice time,” joked Droste about halfway through the band’s set.

Throughout the set, the band members swapped vocal roles and sometimes even instruments; Taylor was seen switching between bass, tenor saxophone, and flute, and Rossen picked up a trumpet for one of the songs.

All four band members shouldered the burden of vocals, which provided an interesting visual experience for fans who probably could not completely distinguish the foursome’s voices from each other on recordings. 

That is partially due to the intense layering of vocal lines in Grizzly Bear’s songs, as well as the integration of those vocal lines with similarly complex and rich instrumental lines.

Such seamless harmonic layering came into play on “While You Wait For The Others,” which might be the band’s most mainstream pop-leaning song to date.

However, the highlight of the set had to be when the band lowered the volume until the Greek Theatre was awash only in the sound of softly chattering show goers. 

Then, in the natural hush of Griffith Park, under the glow of the moon and in the midst of an LA-chilly night, the band dimmed the lights and played “Foreground,” the sublime “Veckatimest” album closer.

Simple piano lines ceded and drifted over a deep, resonating bass line, and the band’s harmonization took on a haunting, dreamy quality. It was one of those moments when the audience listens in, and a nearly 6,000-person seating venue felt as intimate as a corner café. 

Grizzly Bear ended their main set with the album closer for “Shields,” “Sun In Your Eyes,” which had a wild and twisted musical narrative. After a standing ovation, the band came back out to play “Knife,” “On A Neck, On A Spit,” and then an acoustic version of “All We Ask.”

As the band wrapped up its final tune, the lanterns hanging in the air slowly came to rest on the ground, and those lights went out as the house lights went back on.

Grizzly Bear has made a career in technically tricky and aurally challenging music, and while enough of that translates into album and song sales to make a living, it is in a show setting, and particularly in the Greek Theatre’s nestled and natural ambiance, that the band’s music can breathe.

Droste said during the set, “Cheers to a Wednesday night.” While the audience may not have left the show in the high spirits of, say, an EDM concert, it is safe to assume that everyone left with a keener understanding of the band’s particular brand of plaintive, intricate, and downright talented sound.

Read more of Neon Tommy’s show reviews here.

Reach Music Editor Lilian Min here; follow her on Twitter here and on Google+ here.



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