O2 Academy Brixton, London, 09.10.2017

American indie rock band Grizzly Bear has returned to the music scene with a new album, Painted Ruins, after 2012’s critically acclaimed Shields. They are definitely a band that is worth waiting for, since their music is very unique, channeling influences ranging from psychedelia and experiment to rock and pop. Their music is significant by having many musical layers that are charmingly innovative and compositionally detailed. You may find that you need to give their music a few repeated listens to get a grip on all the different musical ideas that are hidden there.

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The band has been on the music scene for nearly 15 years, forming in Brooklyn when Ed Droste (vocals, keyboards) met Chris Taylor (bass, backing vocals) and Christopher Bear (drums). After their first album, Horn Of Plenty, Daniel Rossen (vocals, guitar) joined them and now he is an essential part of the band.

For their opening act, they have chosen an experimental synth-pop band called ‘Liima from Denmark and Finland. They have been working on the new album 1982 with Chris Taylor. Naturally, the opening acts always have a hard time to capture audience’s attention, but Liima managed to pull off an interesting 45-minute set. It was apparent they enjoyed playing there and you could definitely feel the good atmosphere that they transferred to the audience. After that, people were eager for Grizzly Bear to start playing, the whole room was buzzing with expectation.

Visually, their set consisted of large draperies hanging off the ceiling that looked mesmerising, in combination with the colourful lighting show. The only thing that was a bit surprising was that the entire structure was built in the half of the stage, thus the band remained for the whole set quite distant, even to the fans in the front rows.

They kicked off their set with “Four Cypresses“ from their new album, a track which begins with hypnotic drum roll from Chris Bear, followed by Rossen’s mysterious vocals.  At the beginning, the sound felt a little distorted, but after a while, it seemed to make more sense. After playing new songs, “Losing Sense” and “Cut-Out”, they also played some older material. Definitive highlights were the beautiful distinctive chords at the beginning of  “Sleeping Ute”, “Two Weeks” where the audience started to sing along, and “On A Neck, On A Spit”, that they played in a slightly different, more acoustic version than on the record.

The second half of the song was just mind-blowing, with Rossen singing the repetitive chorus “Each day, spend it with me now”. All of the fans were cheering to hear their classic and lyrically sad song “Knife” and a lighter tuned “While You Wait for The Others”, at which point some people in the audience attempted to crowd surf. This perhaps caused an unwanted distraction to people that wanted to focus entirely on the music. After playing an hour and a half, the band thanked the audience, and then returned for the encore – the played vocally stunning “Shift“, followed by the long and emotional track “Sun In Your Eyes”.

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It is no surprise to someone familiar with their music that Rossen / Droste are constantly changing lead vocals between songs, while Bear drums with great enthusiasm and Taylor provides backing vocals while also being able to play multiple instruments (clarinet, flute, saxophone etc.).

For someone that is not familiar with all of their songs, the gig could have created a bit of a blurred image of their discography, because the sound layers in the live environment were not as clear as on the records. With a band that has banked five albums, it is obviously hard to make a setlist that would make everybody happy, but I think they have chosen their songs very well, so their older fans and also new ones could be satisfied and leave the venue with a smile on their face.

By Vladimira Dovalova

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