Grizzly Bear – Brooklyn Steel – November 4, 2017
The draw to go see Grizzly Bear in concert runs parallel to the argument to watch a film by Christopher Nolan or Quentin Tarantino on the big screen. In both cases you’re not only experiencing art in the form that conveys its native impact, but you’re also most fully absorbing the styles, angles and dimensions that gloriously distinguish the artist. Such opportunity was afforded on Saturday at Brooklyn Steel, where Grizzly Bear played the last of three sold-out shows marking their return home to the borough where they were born—and their symbolic return to the contemporary music landscape. While the current tour is no doubt in service of their first new album in five years, Painted Ruins, that focus was discreetly carried home by integrating the long-player’s songs into the rest of Grizzly Bear’s 13-year catalog. Outlined by the magical confines of translucent gauze like fabric that formed a celestial cave dwelling, band members Ed Droste, Daniel Rossen, Chris Tyler and Chris Bear expounded upon a career-spanning set list curated with the narrative and stylistic arc that distilled Grizzly Bear’s significance and contribution to a field of music they were responsible for expanding.
As such, the fantastic show was sort of like a retrospective exhibition. Songs like “Yet Again,” from 2012’s Shields, were played with defiant bluster, as if Grizzly Bear wanted to convince you of the album’s overlooked merit, while “Ready Able” and “While You Wait for the Others,” off their essential 2009 album, Veckatimest, pulsated through the room, heightening and transforming the atmosphere, one of the band’s instinctive abilities. It was clear that any rust that had developed over their individual detachments from playing music in the last five years has already disappeared. Rossen’s guitar strumming still had that irresistible surf-rock dissonance that sucked you into that familiar Grizzly Bear place, and Bear’s drumming still held rhythm and threw fills with jazzy soul. During the levitating rendition of “Fine for Now” the vocal interplay between Rossen and Droste effortlessly combined into two-note harmony. Even something like “Two Weeks,” which we’ve all heard countless times, became irresistible again, revived by a live thrust that had everyone bopping along. When new songs “Mourning Sound,” “Three Rings” and “Four Cypresses” were played, it was only then you realized there were glowing new colors that all blend seamlessly into the Grizzly Bear repertoire.
One thing the performance pushed through in myriad ways and with resonance was how integral this band has been in the past decade of alternative rock. And even though they have become universally respected recording artists, the members still carry themselves like your friends who are thrilled to put on a show at a local bar, which only adds to the warm enchanted feeling you get when seeing Grizzly Bear live. During the set, original founder of the band, Droste, expressed his gratitude for the turnout: “Thank you for welcoming us back to where we started.” Grizzly bear were quite welcome on a night when it became so clear how far they’ve come. —Charles Steinberg | @Challyolly