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Grizzly Bear’s Growing Sound

September 25th, 2012

Grizzly Bear – Radio City Music Hall – September 24, 2012


“This is surreal,” commented Ed Droste of Brooklyn’s Grizzly Bear last night as he took in the view from the stage of Radio City Music Hall, a massive crowd filling the seats of the historic theater. “This is absolutely crazy. It makes me think back to our first show at [Brooklyn bar] Zebulon in 2004,” he remarked, seeming both awestruck and humbled. Indeed, last night’s performance was the local band’s biggest hometown show in their career, plus it was an opportunity to perform material from their new album, Shields, and the magnitude of the occasion was not lost on Grizzly Bear. Droste even announced that his 91-year-old grandmother had flown in for the show, her first time seeing the band.

Opening with Shields“Speak in Rounds” and “Sleeping Ute,” Grizzly Bear’s signature vocal harmonies and mastery of precise, dynamic instrumentation were on full display, complemented by the gentle rise and fall of a backdrop of glowing lights, reminiscent of abstract jack-o’-lanterns. Although Shields’ musical aesthetic fit in naturally with Grizzly Bear’s catalog—plenty of shimmering guitar lines and intricately crafted melodies—songs like “Yet Again” and “A Simple Answer” pack a stronger punch than we’ve previously heard from them. It seems Grizzly Bear’s sound has grown in time with the increasing scale of their concert venues. Fans may never have expected dizzying strobe lights to perfectly punctuate a Grizzly Bear song, but it happened, and it worked

In contrast, mellower favorites like “Cheerleader,” “Ready, Able” and “Foreground,” from 2009’s Veckatimest, held their own on the large stage as well. The band maintained this tranquil thread for the show’s encore, beginning with the understated “Knife” (noting that it was the first song they ever wrote together), and ending with a simple acoustic version of “All We Ask,” which highlighted the subtle interplay of their voices. Although Grizzly Bear proved they have mastered the art of the large-scale show, as they played this final song, the stage nearly dark, they were able to replicate a sense of intimacy akin to their modest roots, back in those Brooklyn-bar days. —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesolivierphoto.com