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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Grizzly Bear @ The Pabst Theater

June 8, 2009

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It took until the last song of the night, but Grizzly Bear finally broke character. As the band offered their staid cover of The Crystals’ “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss),” an incongruously cheerful “Fuck yeah!” from the audience cost singer Ed Droste his poker face. He spent the final verse of the song resisting spasms of laughter.

It was an endearing but rare break in decorum for a band that leaves almost nothing to chance—at this point, the New York quartet is so practiced and disciplined it can probably go days or even weeks on the road without being thrown off script. Their show Monday night at the Pabst Theater was, like their deservedly lauded latest album, Veckatimest, essentially flawless.

There are plenty of other bands that attempt a similarly mannered chamber rock—case in point, Monday’s openers, Here We Go Magic—but none pull it off with the same grace and naturalness as Grizzly Bear. With their intricate, octave-spinning vocal harmonies and esoteric nods to eras past, their sound threatens affectation, but they never mine these antique undertones for kitsch or novelty, and Daniel Rossen’s jarringly tuned guitar offsets their dulcet compositions with a nervy edge. He plays in bold strokes and with an economy of chords. While every other facet of Grizzly Bear’s sound is studied and deliberate, Rossen's guitar hits from the gut.

Monday’s set played with this dynamic, juxtaposing the composed and the visceral. The buoyant, swooning single “Two Weeks” was as stunning as expected, but the night's most memorable surprise was the Veckatimest wallflower “Ready, Able,” a baleful, timid tune on record that climaxed live with a searing, harrowed guitar solo. The night’s best numbers weren’t just showy exercises in beauty; they gave the sense that something was at stake.


Photo Credit: CJ Foeckler