Live Music + Gig Reviews

Grizzly Bear @ KOKO, London

18 August 2009

It’s no doubt been said a few times already, but Grizzly Bear aren’t like other bands. For one, they all seem genuinely humbled by the reaction that greets them as they step out on to the stage at Camden’s ornate but strangely generic KOKO. They also seem to be without ego, the band lining up next to one another, in a row, swapping instruments, taking it in turns to sing or creating lush harmonies with relative ease.

It also helps that they’ve made an album, Veckatimest, that’s head and shoulders above most albums released in 2009 so far. An experimental, hypnotic collection of guitar-based songs, it’s a piece of work to rank alongside the other, more overtly ‘out there’ albums from Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors come the end of the year.

The night starts like the album does, with the undulating Southern Point, Daniel Rossen’s warm voice spreading out across the venue like a cloak. As with the majority of Veckatimest, the song hinges on a dramatic tension being created, sustained and then released at just the right moments. The beautiful Fine For Now starts with delicate guitar lines and sweet harmonies before mushrooming into a controlled cacophony of drums and jagged riffs, the spotlights above each member marking out the drama with greens and blues.

Songs from 2007’s Yellow House album pepper the set, with crowd favourites Knife and On A Neck, On A Spit both making appearances. But for the most part it’s songs from Veckatimest that grab the crowd’s attention. The biggest cheer of the night is saved for the deliriously joyful Two Weeks, in which Ed Droste takes over singing duties, leaving Rossen sat behind a Rhodes piano and bassist Chris Taylor fleshing out the sublime harmonies. The crowd lap it up, bellowing out the ascending “ah, ah” backing vocals and raising arms aloft.

It’s Droste that provides another highlight with the spine-chilling Foreground. Over a simple piano figure and some discordant saxophone squawks from Taylor, Droste’s delicate falsetto brings complete silence to a venue that almost encourages chatter with its copious amounts of nooks and bars. It’s a beautiful moment and one that Taylor acknowledges afterwards by sweetly complementing Droste’s voice. See, not like other bands at all.

There are times, however, when the band and the audience feel disconnected, usually during a song that creeps towards the five minute mark. There are moments when you wish you could perhaps have a nice lie down whilst listening to them play, such is the atmosphere of calm they seem to create. But this is a minor grumble about a gig that showed once again that Grizzly Bear are a band to be treasured. Sometimes it pays to go against the grain, and tonight proved that in spades.

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More on Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear @ Brixton Academy, London
Grizzly Bear – Shields
Grizzly Bear @ Barbican, London
Grizzly Bear @ KOKO, London
Interview: Grizzly Bear