Bear’s Den – The Bowery Ballroom – February 1, 2017
The British folk rock band Bear’s Den wrap gorgeous compositions with a searing banjo ribbon. It’s not a surprise that they supported fellow countrymen Mumford & Sons, as both share similar musical sensibilities. They’re also no strangers to road-tripping across America, having jumped in a Volkswagen Campervan to tour with Ben Howard, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Staves in 2014. In support of their sophomore release, Red Earth & Pouring Rain, the lads played to a sold-out Bowery Ballroom on a crisp Wednesday night. The balcony was overflowing with spectators, as folks could barely get on the floor. Although the evening featured songs from the recent release, special attention was paid to the faithful when the rarely sung and mostly back-cataloged “Sophie” was played acoustically as the audience came to a hauling silence.
Band leader Andrew Davie admitted it was likely their “second-oldest song,” and fans, new and old, were grateful. They erupted for “When You Break,” a favorite from Bear’s Den debut, Islands. A pause in the set carved time for guitarist Christof to make his traditional bottle-flip attempt. The suspense was thick as the water bottle flew in the air, and Davie bear-hugged his bandmate upon success before wailing the sea shanty “Auld Wives.” Christof strapped on the banjo for another favorite, “Above the Clouds of Pompeii,” as clapping hands and stomping feet revved up the band before they exited the stage.
There was little doubt they would not return for an encore, and they did with horn accompaniment for “Napoleon.” Davie, bassist Kevin Jones and Christof made their way into the crowd with only instruments on an acoustic rendition of “Gabriel.” Back onstage, Davie explained that throughout their tour they have been playing covers that were of local artists or about the city they were in. Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy in New York” checked off both those requirements. The evening wrapped up with the anthemic “Agape,” which was a fitting soundtrack to lead folks into the night and onto a new day. —Sharlene Chiu