Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Grizzly Bear - Radio City Music Hall 24th September 2012 review

I saw Grizzly Bear at the Roundhouse in London back in March 2010 and it was one of the best performances I've ever seen (easily blasting its way into the top 5) so my expectations for this show were significant to say the least.

Grizzly Bear at the Roundhouse - March 2010

The band have just released new album, Shields, which is another fine addition to their discography, coming off the back of the majestic, Veckatimest, it must be difficult for a band to follow up something like that, but Shields is certainly one of the finest releases this year.

View from our seats
Radio City Music Hall is truly a wonderful venue, I saw Pulp there earlier in the year (my wife's review) and it is a beautiful room in which to see a band.

Support band, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, a rock trio led by guitarist Ruban Nielson ploughed through a garage-rock set but were not afraid to cut loose on some long and ferocious guitar solos.

The acoustics of the room were perfect for Grizzly Bear's lush melodies and soaring harmonies, the sound at the venue was crystal clear and the best I've ever experienced. The light show had been upgraded from the last tour, which had featured lights in glass bottles suspended in mid-air, we were treated to a "floating lantern" type of display, creating different formations during the course of the night. It was all tastefully done and knew when to drench the hall in light and when to dim everything down low, our seats were up on the first mezzanine so while the view wasn't the most intimate we did get the full effects of the lights.

Radio City Music Hall - 24th September

The set focused heavily on the latest album, with 8 of the 10 tracks played (6 from Veckatimest, 3 from Yellow House and 1 from Horn of Plenty completing the set), all of the new songs come across incredibly well live, like old favourites already.

One thing that is utterly mesmerising about their live show is the vocal harmonies, which are so enchanting on the records and are performed immaculately on stage, you can feel your spirits race as the vocals ejaculate across the room time and time again to utter perfection. An orgy involving the Byrds, Beach Boys and the Beatles could scarcely compete.

Special mention should also go to Aaron Arntz who is joining them onstage on this tour playing a myriad of instruments. He takes a backseat while the band take up their customary positions in a line across the stage, giving each member an equal footing up front.

Picking highlights is virtually impossible when the setlist has such a wonderful flow to it, and being performed so well. There's no sitting around waiting for them to play a crowd favourite. Having said that, Sleeping Ute, Yet Again, A Simple Answer, Cheerleader, Ready Able were all performed with such sweeping beauty that it seems reasonable to give them a shout out. And of course While You Wait for the Others is a behemoth of a song that seems to have everything.


In my experience of New York so far, one observation is that audiences don't really make all that much effort for an encore. I don't know if that's just a lazy attitude and people know a band are going to come back anyway (they don't always) or what, but the audience really demanded an encore here and the roar when the band came back onstage was spine tingling. We were treated to a dreamy rendition of Knife (though for the first 30 seconds the amps weren't turned up all the way!) and then On a Neck, On a Spit both from Yellow House.They ended with an acoustic version of, All We Ask, which was transformed into a longing lullaby, as the band harmonised for a final time the chorus seemed to resonate the relationship this particular listener has with their music perfectly:

I can't
Get out
Of what I'm into
With you

The band are so in tune with their music and masters of their craft, and while some bands may have felt pressure at playing such a prestigious venue in their hometown with many friends and relatives in the audience (Ed's 91 year old Grandmother flew in to see them for the first time), everything seemed like a celebration of what they had achieved up to now. A victory for music integrity. I suspect the band will see it as a significant moment in their career and for me it was quite simply the best concert I have ever been to.

Set List:
Speak in Rounds
Sleeping Ute
Yet Again
Ready, Able
A Simple Answer
While You Wait For The Others
What's Wrong
Two Weeks
Sun In Your Eyes
On A Neck, On A Spit
All We Ask

The band have a few North American dates left this year before heading to the UK and Europe, finishing off in Australia and New Zealand. Miss them at your peril, tour dates here.


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