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Grizzly Bear at the Commodore Ballroom

Grizzly Bear photo

Grizzly Bear at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, Oct 6 2012. Krista Jahnke photo

Review and photos – Grizzly Bear at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, Oct 6 2012

– review by Robyn Hanson/photos by Krista Jahnke

“We want you inside of us!” screamed a fan at Grizzly Bear’s last Vancouver appearance.

This was at the Vogue Theatre during the Veckatimest tour, and arguably one of the most memorable shows of 2009. Mason jar light bulbs hung from the rafters set the mood, which was at times ethereal and at others quite eerie, and with the music there was magic, although I partially blame the mushrooms. The crowd was so captivated that at times, you could hear a pin drop.

So when that one individual publicly confessed our collective love for Grizzly Bear, frontman Ed Droste promised us, “Well now we have a reason to come back to Vancouver.” Three years later, practically to the day, the lords of chamber-pop returned to Canada’s third-largest city to remind us why seeing them live is practically a religious experience.

Bringing their beautiful harmonic indie-rock to a sold-out Commodore Saturday night for the first of two Vancouver shows, the Brooklyn quartet, from the get-go, was clearly excited to be back. “I hope everyone’s drunk!” grinned Droste as he greeted the adoring crowds. “Are you excited for Thanksgiving?” It was, after all, the Thanksgiving Day long weekend for Canadians, and what better way to celebrate?

Without a moment lost, the band kicked off their set with the urgent, fast-paced “Speak In Rounds”, a track off of Shields, their newest album. Released only weeks ago, the band’s fourth record is their most ambitious yet – and that’s saying a lot for this group of ridiculously talented music nerds.

Very much a democracy of songwriters, Grizzly Bear flaunts their equality on stage as well. Standing in a line across the stage, they created a feeling of intimacy between the audience and the entire band: multi-instrumentalist jazz musician Chris Taylor, frontman Droste, singer/guitarist Daniel Rossen, and drummer Christopher Bear. The only guy at the back of the stage was their touring keyboard virtuoso, Aaron Arntz, whose talents did not go unrecognized.

The group’s musical fluency was certainly on tonight’s menu. Clarinet, guitar, piano, synth, saxophone, trumpet, autoharp and drums – this is one talented group of musicians. Yet it was when their voices combined into their signature choirboy harmonies that sent a collective shiver down the spine.

The 90-minute set featured a prominent mix of songs off of both Shields and Veckatimest. Highlights included the dreamy, ethereal “Cheerleader”, the unconventional “Lullabye” (featuring Droste on the autoharp) off Yellow House (the band’s 2006 album) and the smokey, after-hours Shields number “What’s Wrong”.

Although fan favourites like “Yet Again” or “While You Wait For The Others” incited instant recognition (often followed by group-singalongs), there were also a few surprises. One of such was the spectacular “Gun-Shy”, a subdued Shields track that, live, was absolutely gorgeous.

And though few obscurities were played, when an audience member lifted up a hand-drawn cardboard sign with a lyric from “Shift” (off the soundtrack for the 2010 movie Blue Valentine) the band seamlessly segued into the request as if it had all been pre-planned.

At times, the band seemed almost overwhelmed by the crowd’s enthusiasm. Before the downtempo “Sun In Your Eyes”, Rossen sarcastically asked the audience to cheer like they were at a Van Halen concert. That backfired – the crowd made as much noise as for any other song.

But in the end the band didn’t seem to mind. “That was the best show I have ever seen,” said one converted fan following the two-song encore. Apparently the feeling was mutual: the next morning an entry on Droste’s Twitter account read, “Vancouver won me over tonight. Big time.”

Setlist – Grizzly Bear at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, Oct 6 2012:

1. Speak in Rounds
2. Sleeping Ute
3. Cheerleader
4. Lullabye
5. Yet Again
6. Shift
7. Gun-Shy
8. Ready, Able
9. A Simple Answer
10. Foreground
11. While You Wait for the Others
12. What’s Wrong
13. Two Weeks
14. Sun In Your Eyes


1. The Knife
2. On a Neck On a Spit

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