IF you’re anything like me then you’ll love live music, but sweaty crowds, alcohol soaked hair and squashed feet? Not so much. So imagine my delight when I found that Grizzly Bear would be bringing their unique blend of electronic folk rock and beautiful harmonies to Nottingham’s Albert Hall. Their second show in two years took place in the majestic hall, complete with stunning acoustics and a stage placed in front of a monstrous organ that scaled to the ceiling.
How refined and classy I felt queuing among the bearded, loafer-clad men and kooky girls in thick rimmed-specs and peter pan collars (I include myself in there), drinking rosé wine in the interval and sitting down, I repeat, sitting down for a gig!
The Brooklyn band took to a stage bathed in smoky light and began with all the vigour and enthusiasm of a band eager to jump back into live shows. Singer Edward Droste coaxed the crowd to their feet and they were all set to prove they’d been busy grizzlies in their absence. Diving in by introducing us to the delicate sound of Speaking in Rounds from the new album Shields.
As Grizzly Bear plucked songs from their prolific catalogue; the space shrank until ‘the Great Hall’ felt like a small basement gig. But it was their interaction with the crowd that created a friendly and intimate evening. Full of American wit and awkward banter, the audience felt like the fifth member. Droste announced it was bassist Chris Taylor’s birthday; Taylor chatted about the weird gifts his band mates had left around his instruments; four wooden eggs and a collection of records including Phil Collins and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack-just what he always wanted!?
In between tuning instruments Christopher Bear drummed an r’n’b beat and a wave of laughter took the crowd as Droste gyrated to the rhythm in his pastel pink slacks. The band reminisced about the last time they were in Nottingham and they’ve certainly made progress. They told the crowd that back in 2005 they played to around ten people, that must have been a great gig, but this was far more stunning.
It was the enchanting simplicity of Foreground that reminded the audience how moving Grizzly Bear’s music could be. As the piano chords echoed, Taylor grabbed a saxophone, creating a depth that reverberated around the hall. There’s nothing grizzly about these boys, new songs Yet Again and Sleeping Ute charmed people out from their rows and began to shuffle and sway to their perfect mix of shimmering keyboard notes and grimy guitar melodies.
Let’s not forget the band scored the soundtrack to the movie Blue Valentine starring Ryan Gosling. Lullabye was our instant reminder of the film and emphasised how emotive and poignant their music can be; beginning with light strums and simple harmonies to glittery synth sounds and overlapping lyrics, we became the stars of our own film, and the soundtrack was epic-despite Gosling’s absence.
The stirring piano and tight ethereal harmonies in Two Weeks were given an extra dimension as a projected firework display danced on the giant looming organ behind. A Grizzly Bear gig wouldn’t be complete without an encore of the much-loved Knife played with layer upon layer of spine-tingling hums and low bass.
As we reluctantly shuffled to the exits and walked out into the chilly summer night, we were warm with a glow of musical goodness. It felt old-fashioned stepping into a music hall and taking your allocated seat for a night of entertainment. But now I know what my Grandma means when she asks if I am going to see a show. From the venue, to the staging, to their electrifying performance; Grizzly Bear did put on a show. Grizzly Bear really are back and you need to see them, even if you don’t get chance to sit down!
This was written for Company Magazine’s Company Rocks! Feature, in the hope of being a contributing music ed- wish me luck!