Grizzly Bear @ the Commodore Ballroom, 5/27/09

I didn’t make down to Sasquatch this year, but at least I’ve been able to enjoy some of the festival’s sloppy seconds (ewww…sorry). Animal Collective played on Sunday, and on Monday TV on the Radio was in town (which I passed on, since I’ve already seen the group once on the Dear Science tour). Last night, Grizzly Bear played a record release show at the Commodore, celebrating the critically-approved Veckatimest.

During a mid-set rendition of “Colorado,” the closing track off of 2006′s Yellow House, a fan screamed “You’re amazing!” at the top of his lungs. And that simple statement pretty much said it all—Grizzly Bear is a technically stunning band, each member is virtuosic at his instrument, and bassist Chris Taylor is so man-pretty he could have been carved out of porcelain. (That last statement might be irrelevant to the band’s music, but it’s still worth noting.) Every song was flawlessly executed, without so much as a note or a beat out of place.

But the band’s greatest strength was also its greatest weakness. With such meticulous attention to every detail, the performance came off as overstudied—no one could ever accuse Grizzly Bear of being too lively on stage. What’s worse, with only four members on stage, the band wasn’t able to replicate the grandeur of its studio arrangements. “Cheerleader,” so hauntingly beautiful in studio form, was flat and lifeless when replicated live.

The songs that worked best were those that emphasized melody over musicianship. “Two Weeks” and “Knife” were predictably awesome, as were the explosive harmonies on the chorus of “While You Wait for the Others.” But on the less pop-oriented material, the band resembled the chamber pop equivalent of prog. It’s counter-intuitive to suggest that a band play less well, but for Grizzly Bear, it would be nice to see the members take a less studious approach.
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