Seeing Grizzly Bear play their first US tour date of the year was like watching the indie rock Power Rangers perform a synchronized exhibition.

11/1/17 – House of Blues

The House of Blues buzzed on the night of November 1st. A crowd of hip students and young professionals filed into the hollow room to see Grizzly Bear kick off the first US tour date of 2017 in support of Painted Ruins, the indie-rockers’ critically-acclaimed fifth album.

Fresh despite a raucous Boston Halloween, the crowd formed lines at the three bars. The house lights dimmed at 8 o’clock to excited applause. The sound system issued an awkward, robotic welcome. The show’s opening act, New York-based gospel singer Josiah Wise (one half of serpentwithfeet), slipped onto the stage to a nearly silent audience.

Wise wore a glinting silver suit which bore a stark contrast to his primeval jewelry and makeup. Looking one part pagan spiritual leader and one part Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element, Wise unleashed thirty minutes of breathy and impressive Gospel chops over spooky, orchestral backing tracks. He sang of penance, forgiveness, romance, and unrequited love channeling a Baptist pastor at a church service. Though captivating, Wise struggled to engage the audience and seemed awkward under the spotlight. Ultimately, he left the stage to middling applause from a bewildered crowd.

The short set led to a long wait time for the main act. The lights didn’t dim again until 9:15. Grizzly Bear walked out to thunderous applause from a packed house. The four members took the stage from left to right bass player Chris Taylor, singer Ed Droste, singer/guitarist Daniel Rossen, and drummer Christopher Bear.

Without a word, the band began with the steady, slow-burning “Four Cypresses,” the third single off Painted Ruins. Following a seamless performance of two additional songs off the new album, co-lead singer Ed Droste addressed the crowd, revealing that he was born and raised in Boston. “My childhood friends, high school friends, and my brother Will are all here tonight,” he said, pointing to the second-level balcony.

Will Droste, tall and sturdy like his brother, leaned over the rails of the second level balcony, drink in hand, and waved his arms in the air, earning a monstrous applause from the floor. (It would not be the last time that night he acted as a hype-man for the band.)

The band launched into “Yet Again,” a standout rocker off their 2012 album Shields that burst into a chaotic performance of pure noise and strobes. The band followed up with two folky, harmonious tracks from 2009’s Veckatimest, “Fine For Now” and “Ready, Able.”

For the first show of their tour, Grizzly Bear was on point no surprise considering their twelve years of playing together. Across their hard-rock and psych-folk songs, the band showcased their skills with four-part vocal harmony and their comfortability with each other’s musicianship. They were seasoned, solid, but fresh as ever.

Positioned in a straight line across the front of the stage, Grizzly Bear showcased each member’s contribution to their diverse sound. Bass player Chris Taylor, also the band’s producer, showed his range across three woodwind instruments and an analog synthesizer. Droste towered over the stage with various electronic instruments and the cavernous yowl of a bard. Rossen, quaint, reserved, and reminiscent of a stoic Paul Simon, swapped guitars after every song. He occasionally broke this routine to sit at the keyboards. To the right of the stage, Chris Bear sat the way an old jazz head would straddle the drum throne, pounding, swinging, and splashing his way through the set. Multi-instrumentalist Aaron Arntz accompanied the quartet on keyboards, samples, and the occasional trumpet performance.

Each was a vital force. There were no weak links; nothing was superfluous. Each flourish was executed by its respective smith without flaw. It was like watching the indie-rock Power Rangers perform a synchronized exhibition.

The band jumped between songs from Shields and Painted Ruins, playing Neighbors at the request of Droste’s brother. Rossen took a seat at his keyboard to play crowd favorite “Two Weeks,” followed by an intense performance of “On a Neck, On a Spit,” a folk odyssey from 2006’s Yellow House. Several songs later, the band capped off their set with a performance of Veckatimest’s While You Wait For The Others.” Grizzly Bear waved goodbye and sauntered off the stage.

But it wasn’t over yet—not according to Will Droste. Leaning over the balcony rail, drink in hand, he led the crowd in a chant: “Two more songs! Two more songs!” After five minutes, the members of Grizzly Bear reemerged, each grinning ear to ear. “Damn, my brother really knows how to get you guys going!” Ed giggled into the microphone.

Droste introduced the first encore Shift” from debut album Horn of Plenty as Grizzly Bear’s oldest song. The band played it somber for a breathless crowd. Then, Rossen played the opening chords to “Sun In Your Eyes.” It was here where Grizzly Bear utilized all of their tricks. Taylor swapped his bass for a reverb-heavy saxophone. Droste stroked his electronics. The song built and dropped several times before its explosive climax, a rapturous wash of angelic melody, emotive chord changes, and a near-blinding display of lights.

On the song’s final chord, House of Blues erupted in applause. Grizzly Bear waved goodbye one last time and disappeared. Will Droste, the proudest brother in the room, leaned over the rail, drink in hand, egging on the cheers.

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