Grizzly Bear in Vicar Street, Dublin, on 4 October 2017
Midway through the first set of their European tour, Edward Droste – along with his gratitude – unwittingly offers what might be the perfect way to illustrate the music of Grizzly Bear to the uninitiated. “I also really appreciate people trying to dance to our music… it’s hard.” Through five albums the band has explored the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of songwriting; expansive, organic journeys where 4/4 time is only one of a multitude of signatures available to choose from. The Brooklyn band’s multi-instrumentalists take a subtly progressive approach to their craft.
It’s the Scandinavians, though, who blaze the sonic trail on opening night as Liima – Finnish percussionist Tatu Rönkkö and the three lads from Efterklang – pull bodies into Vicar Street’s main room. Bunched together under the opening of the gauze-like canopy that forms part of the main act’s stage deco, what begins with an Animal Collective redolent vocal soon gives way to darker slabs of electro and more industrially formed tracks.
The vocal dictates the mood throughout, and every so often the singer leaves his mic to come forward and sit on a monitor, ending up on his knees stage front – an emotive gesture at first glance, but most likely an attempt to remain visible beneath the opaque hanging veil that obscures him. They eventually take things into the rock oeuvre with psych swirls and the guitar-like squeal of synth before a heavy, clarion-like finale rounds off their set – by-numbers stuff for a band culled from Efterklang, but well-suited to the night that’s in it.
It generally bodes well when a band makes use of the full expanse of the Vicar Street stage, and Grizzly Bear’s proves an immersive set as the tripartite hanging backdrop and hugely impressive lighting rig add an element of visual depth that complements the band’s sound. The show comes into its element by the time Cut-out has blown into life two songs in. The fullness of the sound and light show is tested to its maximum potential in advance of the selection ahead.
Claiming that Irish audiences are their favourite to play to (“you know how to give more of the extra oomph“), Droste straps on his guitar at Four Cypresses’ instrumental section and Chris Taylor’s bass comes in deep, rattling ribs in the room. The light accompaniment once more adds immeasurably to the sensory low-end blitz, doing the heavy lifting in terms of stage theatrics for the set’s duration.
Grizzly Bear step back in time occasionally, with Shift from their debut and On A Neck, On A Spit from follow-up ‘Yellow House’, the latter garnering one of the set’s warmest crowd responses. The bulk of tonight, though, is taken from this year’s ‘Painter Ruins’ and to a lesser extent 2009’s ‘Veckatimest’. So cohesive is the whole stage show, though, and so adept the players, that the blend is as mellifluous as we’ve come to expect from Grizzly Bear.
A sweetly awkward interlude before Sun In Your Eyes gives Daniel Rossen cause for comedic concern (“we desperately need a hype man“), and the aptly-titled song closes out the set with one last room-illuminating sear of strobe lights. In more ways than the obvious, tonight’s show is a spectacle of light and shade, deftly crafted by a band now clearly seasoned in the art of audio-visual envelopment.