Last Night: Grizzly Bear at House of Blues
The best move that Grizzly Bear made Tuesday night was possibly their only move. What I imagined to be electric-light squids danced high and low in time as lights flashed in bursts, the band frozen silhouettes in the foreground.
The music was at moments pounding and purposeful, then in others seeping like a mist and highly confessional. But through it all an intense stillness. The packed house swayed and weaved, transfixed by the spectacle before them like it was an illuminated homing beacon.
All of these arena-rock trappings seem very peculiar for someone who has only ever heard Grizzly Bear on their recordings. In fact, at first I was a bit put off by it (also, this may have been grumps due to mistakenly double-booking myself on my own birthday). But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.
Sure, maybe a song like "Sleeping Ute" is easily painted up for Easter with timed light effects, and that doesn't make it any less striking. But the oozing synth of "Adelma" seemed too intimate for all this pomp at first. But the longer I was immersed, the more it all came together.
Here was a textbook Pitchfork band (I mean that with all love and respect) playing to a possibly sold-out House of Blues and totally crushing it. ((If anyone can confirm that it was sold out, please do so in the comments.) I for one had a heck of a time getting in, pushing through a very drunk crowd of disgruntled would-be concert goers, some flashing cash at the doormen. My cries of "but I'm on the list!" were heard by one kind security worker, and I am very grateful (here's to you, sir).
What is so remarkable about this show possibly being sold out is that Grizzly Bear records, to me, have always been the stuff of Sunday mornings. Mellow and non-confrontational, they were like an audio hug for a hungover head. How possibly, could this make a successful translation to the big room at HOB?
But for over an hour Tuesday night, these boys from Brooklyn proved it could be done. Making effective use of the light show visuals. They weren't just playing "with" the songs, they became part of the songs. Where most bands might just use their stage presence to bring life to their sets, Grizzly Bear, the musicians, took a back seat to the immersive audio/visual spectacular that was the true presentation.