Grizzly Bear: Better than Radiohead?

Written by Scott Mervis on .

grizzly3It speaks to the maturity of the college-age music connoisseur that Grizzly Bear could nearly sell out the 1,800-capacity Carnegie Music Hall on a Saturday night in the middle of March Madness and spring break.
The Brooklyn band is the dictionary definition of nuance, playing music best for gazing out the window on a gray day. 
In a confessional mood last week, AC Newman, of The New Pornographers, tweeted that he thought Grizzly Bear was better than Radiohead, which Grizzly Bear toured with in 2008. That's a big claim for a little tweet.
Having seen Grizzly Bear, there's no way I'm going there. Grizzly Bear doesn't have the rhythmic overdrive or the Yorke-ian emotional punch of the British art-rockers, but its certainly in the sonic ballpark.
grizzly1The Brooklyn darlings put more emphasis on the shimmering group vocals, shared between the frontline of lead singer Ed Droste, guitarist Daniel Rossen (who took several leads) and bassist Chris Taylor. You could put them in a harmony showdown with CSN, Fleet Foxes and My Morning Jacket and there's no telling what would happen.
The dreamy vocals came to the fore on songs like "Lullabye," "Shift" and "Foreground," while their rhythmic muscle was flexed on noisy psych-rock songs such as "Yet Again," "Ready, Able" and "Two Weeks." The new album, "Shields," brought some of the strongest pieces, including dashing openers "Speak in Rounds" and "Sleeping Ute."
Grizzly Bear isn't much to look at visually. They played in shadowy lighting, with ghostly luminaria behind them, and Droste is a largely internal frontman who doesn't stray from his electronic keyboard.
With opener Owen Pallett, who returned to play violin on "What's Wrong," it was a show that stood out more for its subtle virtuosity than its rock energy.
Updated at 9:23 p.m. April 1.

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