Grizzly Bear @ Mosaic Music Festival, 9 March 2013
Fresh from seeing Acid House Kings on Friday, I was slated to see Brooklyn four-piece Grizzly Bear at the Esplanade Concert Hall the next night. As with the Swedish indie pop band, I have to admit I had only heard a smattering of Grizzly Bear songs prior to their show. For some reason I never really got into them despite all the critical acclaim and adoration. However when Z told me he had won a pair of tickets and asked if I wanted to go, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
Z was running late and after leaving his ticket at the counter, I headed into the hall and took my middle foyer seat in row FF. I observed the crowd and tried not to feel self-conscious about sitting alone. I have come to expect a certain type of audience for shows like this – a mixture of students and indie fans in their 20s and 30s, music critics and expats. There was a steady stream of people as show time drew closer and the place filled up nicely; it looked to be a near full-house.
At around 7.40pm the band strolled on stage and the folks in the stall seats leapt to their feet, which was the cue for people at the back to run to the front. I hesitated, then got up and inched my way along the pairs of seated legs as fast as I could and raced towards the stage. I settled for standing in the 4th row on the left.
The band kicked off with “Speak in Rounds” from their latest album Shields. It was the start of a dazzling 2 hour set that made me kick myself inwardly for not getting into them earlier. Perhaps it was because of my failure to give Grizzly Bear a proper listening, but I always thought they sounded unspectacular and flat on record. They proved to be consummate professionals live and their set was excellent, atmospheric and captivating. Lead singer Edward Droste sang emotively, swaying and gripping the microphone stand as he traded vocals with guitarist Daniel Rossen. Bassist and multi-instrumentalist Chris Taylor provided back-up vocals while switching between bass, saxophone and clarinet, and drummer Christopher Bear rounded out the quartet. Their complex, layered melodies unfolded beautifully, with Edward’s expressive voice bringing out the nuance and melancholia of each song. The superb acoustics of the hall meant every note rang out rich and clear, and this coupled with the band’s superb musicianship made for a positively heady experience. They played a mix of songs from their four albums, including the singles “Two Weeks”, “Yet Again” and “While You Wait For The Others.” It was a mark of their popularity that the end of each song drew loud applause. The band looked happy to be playing in Singapore, with Edward thanking the crowd profusely and engaging in light banter between songs. At one point he did a brief free-style jazzy wail while waiting for the rest of the band to set up.
The main set came to an end after 1 and a half hours and the band trooped off backstage as the crowd cried out for more. They soon returned and delivered a four song encore which included “Knife” and “On A Neck, On A Spit” from their 2006 album Yellow House. It was past 9.30pm when the band strode off for the last time and the lights came on. As the crowd slowly ambled towards the exits and the buzz of excited chattering filled the air, I thought to myself that this had been a very good Saturday evening indeed.