Grizzly Bear: Live at the Wiltern Theatre (June 19, 2009)

After spending an indeterminate amount of time—minutes? hours?—reading text messages from the audience scrolling across the screen above the stage, the house lights at the Wiltern came down. Brooklyn-based quartet Grizzly Bear strolled out and took to an unusual formation onstage: Chris Taylor (bass, clarinet, flute, sax, etc.) to the far left, Ed Droste (vocals, guitar, autoharp) to his right, Daniel Rossen (vocals, guitar, keys) next over, and Christopher Bear (vocals, drums) to the far right. With the band in full array, each member markedly contributed to the intricate unfoldings that fashion the Grizzly Bear repertoire. Chris Taylor’s rotation through his small arsenal of instruments was nearly exhausting to watch as the songs played out, making him—in a lot of ways—the showpiece of the stage. Even his position on the far left couldn’t mask it.

Across the entire stage, of course, the band shared vocal duties. Taylor and Bear’s higher voices on either side of the stage and Droste and Rossen’s midranges to the middle added a visual complement to the aural balance they delivered throughout the show. All four voices sweet and strong, unaffected but evocative, managed a fragile and angelic blend.

“Fine For Now” was among the most engaging moments of the entire performance, with its lilting, slightly off-kilter rhythms and brief glimpses into chromatic inflection. The song worked its way in and out of dreamy reflection and lofty ambition, brimming with elegiac vocals, never unjustly blowing its top.

“Deep Blue Sea,” on the other hand, brought the house down to a whisper. The crowd had been chanting for it between songs and, once it began, became absorbed in the sparse, folk-inspired tune as the guitar rolled out over the audience. It seemed a nostalgic piece even for those not patently familiar.

In between moments of intense control of the crowd, the band was friendly and warm. Daniel Rossen, who shares writing responsibilities with Droste and is an L.A. native, extended an enthusiastic welcome to his mother who was in attendance at the sold-out Wiltern show. The band devoted more energy to the performance itself, however, and so interaction was kept to a minimum.

With the stage super-saturated in colored light, each level of the venue densely carpeted with attentive bodies, Grizzly Bear consummately evinced the finesse they’ve already demonstrated in studio and, rather appropriately, devoured the Wiltern.


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