Pop Montreal, Quebec, Canada, September 23
It’s a quiet, autumnal Sunday night at an old Regency theatre in Montreal and the crowd for Grizzly Bear is waiting, as you might expect, earnestly. The Brooklyn quartet’s new album has been out for about half an hour by the time they hit a stage cluttered with guitars, a cello, saxophones, keys, synths, a piano, a drumkit and something that looks like an autoharp. When they pick up the instruments, ‘Shields’ is instantly vivified.
Edward Droste and Daniel Rossen have spoken about how their fourth record is their most collaborative work yet, and the latticed songwriting effect comes alive tonight, particularly when they share vocal duties on songs like ‘Half Gate’. The different vocal tones that sometimes seem flat on Grizzly Bear records sound moving when heard live. Christopher Taylor’s backing vocals are particularly beautiful on ‘Gun-Shy’, and although Droste’s voice cracks a couple of times, there’s richness in its fragility.
There are two other reasons why the new songs sound more muscular than the limper album versions: the heavier chorus builds in tunes like ‘Speak In Rounds’ and ‘Sleeping Ute’, and the far more intricate breakdowns, particularly the Radiohead homage of ‘Yet Again’. Behind the band is a string of 16 lanterns that look like jellyfish, which rise, fall, flash or dim depending on what the band are playing.
The Grizzlies themselves aren’t known for funky moves or wild stage antics, but they have a charisma of their own and banter naturally with the crowd. At one point they dedicate a song to Emily Kai Bock – the hot-shit director of Grimes’ ‘Oblivion’ vid – with whom the band have been working to promo their new single, ‘Yet Again’. Like everything they do, it’s charming. But the quartet are more than just charming. There’s something deeper here – separate talents playing together to create something that’s better than the sum of their parts. It’s both mysterious and magical to watch a band playing in complete harmony.