Live: The Teeth-Grindingly Precious Grizzly Bear at Town Hall

The MVP, as usual. CREDIT
The MVP, as usual. CREDIT

Grizzly Bear Town Hall Friday May 29

Things shouted at Grizzly Bear tonight, in ascending order of dunderheadedness:

"What's your favorite color?"

"Tweet something!"

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"What kind of reverb pedal do you use?"

"Best album of the year!"

Knock it off. GB's Veckatimest is, it's true, a far more palatable candidate than Merriweather Post Pavilion, though I've played it like ten times straight through and it's still barely separated into discernible songs, preferring to remain a monolithic lump of intricacy, delicacy, frailty, elegance, and somewhat fusty beauty. Speaking of which: pretty righteous diss in the Times, right? "The band gives you beauty until you can't stand it." The "show was mostly studied, intellectual tension." "Wow, these songs are precious." Can I agree with all those things and still have thoroughly enjoyed myself, and not "left Town Hall grinding my teeth"?

They are pretty fantastic live, is the thing, with indeed a very mannered, churchly, repressed manner that still eventually leads to the emotional catharsis they deny themselves; Town Hall, one of the best venues in town, classy and acoustically pristine without getting all cocky about it, suits them well, the evening's firefly-in-a-Mason-jar lighting scheme evocative of both a cathedral and a backwoods swamp. Ed Droste's precisely booming voice is a startling instrument when there's natural reverb to back it, and drummer Christopher Bear is a marvel of tightly wound intensity, as best exemplified on their Phil Spector homage "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)," which, along with the previous night's Brooklyn Youth Choir, Friday night's adoring crowd was denied, bah.

But their songs finally separated, finally became songs: "Two Weeks," the dainty pop quasi-hit; "Colorado," the mesmerizing but laborious Yellow House elegy here given a bit more muscle and mystery; and best of all, Veckatimest closer "Foreground," a slow and somber dirge driven by a blessedly uncluttered piano line, just a few notes trudging along, a very simple thing amid a whirlwind of very complicated, elaborate, carefully orchestrated things. I did not leave Town Hall gritting my teeth.

In 140 characters or less: Fuck Mo Williams and everyone else.

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