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


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!”

“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.