Grizzly Bear - Massey Hall
Brooklyn’s Grizzly Bear brought their stunning new record Shields to life in one of Toronto’s most revered live music venues. Neil Young released a live album of his landmark performance at the venue and the legacy of Young’s haunting renditions was not lost on Grizzly Bear singer/guitarist Daniel Rossen, commenting after their opening song ‘Speak In Rounds’ that Young’s live-album was a particular favourite of the band.
Everything is a touch more grandiose about the Brooklyn four piece on this tour. The harmonies more dramatic, the lights brighter, sound is more mesmeric and intricate, – so much so, their ambitious arrangements require an extra set of hands. Aaron Arntz (Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros) has joined the band for the tour, adding auxiliary flair to the already dense mix with synthesizers and horns.
The visual and lightning setting was stunning. Floating at the back of the stage was a series of jellyfish-styled orbs that moved hauntingly throughout the set. The Shields material translates seamlessly to a live setting. New visual effects take on a far stronger role than previous tours, but as a musical enhancement rather than a main element. ‘Sleeping Ute’ relies heavily on the well-synchronized quiet/loud structure.
In addition to an extra member on keys and horns, the band also invited some special guests to share the stage. Mid-way through their set, the band was joined by Owen Pallett, adding violin swells on ‘Half Gate’ and the slow-burning ‘What’s Wrong.’
It’s a big; hallowing hall, which presents a space where some bands could get lost, but Grizzly Bear can play loud. On ‘Yet Again,’ Shields' second single and a song about the inevitabilities and routines of life, the group took their time with the lengthy rendition, building slowly to crescendo from an off-putting, undefined collection of wiggling guitar strums and drum beats into a huge, precise sing-along-like experience. The same happened with ‘Ready, Able.’ Gliding from an introspective sound into something so much more thundering and expansive, swallowing up the auditorium in a twisting, almost visceral soundscape, vocalist Ed Droste howled, “There go we go, I want you to know, what I did I did.”
Unsurprisingly the breakout singles from 2009’s Veckatimest received the loudest cheers including the haunting ‘Foreground’ and strong harmonies and whistling on ‘Shift’ from 2004’s Horn of Plenty. Droste’s vocals floated through the venue on ‘Yet Again.’ Droste was happy to share the spotlight however, swapping lead duties with guitarist Daniel Rossen on a few tracks while bassist Chris Taylor and drummer Christopher Bear chimed in on the microphones as well. Every member multi-tasks in a labyrinth of effects pedals, pianos, and guitars strewn about the stage. Grizzly Bear then welcomed another special guest Feist, fresh from her recent Polaris win, to the stage to sing back up vocals on ‘Two Weeks,’ which brought the crowd to their feet.
Grizzly Bear finished off the night with a barely amplified acoustic rendition of ‘All We Ask’ which into a crowd clap-a-long. Their impeccable harmonies and soaring vocals sweep around the venue, washing over the audience bringing the evening to a euphorically received end and one show the crowd will remember for a long time to come.