Concert review: Grizzly Bear at Berklee Performance Center, Boston, MA June 3, 2009
The first time I saw Grizzly Bear live—at a crowded, stiflingly hot club in Northampton, Massachusetts—was the moment I went from being a casual fan to a mildly obsessed one. These four sweaty, slightly goofy guys put on a dazzling, energetic, virtuosic show, one that transformed the cramped space into a collective religious experience.
Nearly two years later at the Berklee Performance Center, I realized Grizzly Bear are on their way up in the world. Last night’s venue was five times bigger, the audience was sitting down, and the band members were cool and collected under a light show in shifting tones of red, blue, and green.
Other than that, though, you’d never know that Veckatimest, one of the most (deservedly) hyped albums of the year, just made #8 on the US Billboard charts. Grizzly Bear’s unclassifiable live sound—a blend of four-part harmonies and folky strumming, fifties-style pop hooks and dramatic climaxes—remains as astonishing as ever.
At last night’s show, the band turned much of their older material inside out, giving “Colorado” and the rhythmic “Fix It” an added depth and expansiveness. They’ve probably played “Knife” a billion times by now (as shown by the loud applause that flared up on the first notes) but somehow they made it new.
The band played actual newer stuff, too, including the pretty, piano-driven “Two Weeks,” and my favorites “Ready, Able” and “While You Wait for the Others.” The new material was a bit more faithful to the album versions, but I’m sure that eventually these songs, too, will sound completely different in a live setting. The only letdown was the relative lack of lead vocals by guitarist Dan Rossen, whose rough-edged voice provides the perfect counterpart to singer Ed Droste’s sweeter, more soaring tones.
That’s a minor disappointment, though, from what was a truly stellar live show. If you’re a fan, try to catch Grizzly Bear in concert as soon as you can; at the rate they’re going, two years from now they’ll be headlining their first world stadium tour. -Anna Kramer
photo of Ed & Dan by