Monday, June 1, 2009
Ever since that Veckatimest record leaked, the thing that kept me in anticipation with the Grizzly Bear was the fact that I bought tickets, two and a half months in advance mind you, for both nights at Town Hall in New York City to celebrate not just the best album of 2009 (surprise much?) but also to celebrate my birthday. It was the least I could do for being one of the many who downloaded the album far in advance. I also bought it on CD. And vinyl. And, ok, yes I am obsessed with it.
Anyway, I was giddy, I was sitting in my seat and as the lights went down and the band walked out, I told the person sitting next to me how this had been something that was two months in the making. And they did not disappoint. Not one second.
On the eve of this pair of homecoming shows, it was announced that the band would be joined for the first night by their friends in the Brooklyn Youth Chorus that helped bring together some of the greatest moments of Veckatimest, and they just made the night at Town Hall even better. Joining them for "Cheerleader" and "Fine For Now" was one thing, but returning to the stage to later perform the final moments of the Veck were as epic as the songs themselves. "I Live With You" found drummer Chris Bear and his signature fits of rage coalescing with the harmonies provided by the ladies in black, who then said goodbye with the segue in to "Foreground," displaying a moment that was ever the more powerful than one would think from just hearing it on anything from a low-quality file or direct from the CD or LP itself.
And for those who didn't make it to the first night, those who showed up the second night got an equally awesome surprise. In place of the choir, the Griz was joined by the ACME String quartet for a set of songs during the second half of their set. They even played the song that Ed Droste introduced as the one that they "failed to perform on late night TV last week" ("Ready, Able"). Getting to see this in the flesh, from the front row mind you, totally makes up for that Letterman guy talking too much to the CEO of GM last week. Lucky for you, the Letterman performance got rescheduled for July - it will not disappoint.
After the string quartet exited, and the band tore through immaculate renditions of "On A Neck, On A Spit" and "While You Wait For The Others," they returned for the simplest of encores. To utilize the impeccable acoustics of Town Hall, the band ended the two night run with an acoustic version of "All We Ask," kind of like that recent Black Cab session. While Bear played a stripped down kit, Dan Rossen strummed an acoustic guitar while Droste sang and bassist Chris Taylor stood there and harmonized.
And then, it was over. I have found very few people not buying in to the hype that is Grizzly Bear and their new album; I know I am a card-carrying member of said hype. But it's not just because they have made a great album, but it is also because they are talented musicians: they are tight in their live performances. They don't waste time, there was such little small talk outside of a few pleasantries between songs. They came onstage, they played their songs, they smiled politely and left. They've been given praise not just from this blogger, but lots of other places, and I know my opinion isn't as regaled as that Pitchfork site or Rolling Stone or Spin, but know this: it is worth every last ounce of hype and attention.
5/28/09 Set List:
Southern Point / Cheerleader* / Fine For Now* / Service Bell / Knife / Little Brother / Colorado / Two Weeks / Ready, Able / I Live With You* / Foreground* / While You Wait For The Others // He Hit Me / On A Neck, On A Spit
*with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus
5/29/09 Set List:
Southern Point / Cheerleader / Lullabye / Knife / Fine For Now / Two Weeks / Colorado / Dory* / Ready, Able* / I Live With You* / Foreground* / While You Wait For The Others / On A Neck, On A Spit // All We Ask
*with the ACME String Quartet