I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Melbourne duo Kid Sam were to be one of the two support acts for the night at Grizzly Bear’s gig at Palais Theatre, Melbourne last night. I had been fortunate enough to catch these two at one of those lovely intimate Polyester Records in-store shows early last year (if memory serves me correctly), and remember thoroughly enjoying their use of pots and pans, scratchy broken cymbals and jagged jangly guitar riffs, accompanied by a voice which tonight proved to strike similar to Mr. Falsetto himself, Jeff Buckley. There’s a lovely vibrato in Kieran Ryan’s voice that resonated quite nicely in the slowly filling theatre. Songs range from the kind that lovers listen to in order to forget the rest of the world’s existence like Close Your Eyes and it All Goes Black, to songs that build unexpectedly to a crescendo of controlled noise, like Down To the Cemetery. Despite being cut short, Kid Sam gave us an experimental, rough yet glimmering set, and a promising start to the evening.
Following the local act comes five energetic foreigners from American shores, known as Here We Go Magic, cheerily introducing themselves and their excitement to be down under. All smiles, the five-piece launch straight into an upbeat, light-hearted set that showcases the band’s talent in producing catchy riffs with a toe-tapping pulse, but also well managed harmonies – I’m a sucker for a good harmony, and these guys don’t do too bad! There are a lot of smiles shared between band members (which I’m confused as to meaning a sweet sharing of satisfaction in the moment, or perhaps a few too many beers pre-show, causing a hesitation or two..). A few of the songs mesh into one, the overall sound reminiscent of a steady mix between Arcade Fire, Edward Sharpe &TMZ, and the Dirty Projectors, Fangela a particularly engaging tune. Here We Go Magic finish the set with a progressive energy that builds throughout the set to a final bang, drawn out by the diminuendo of the tremolo keyboard sound persistent in the tunes, chuffed smiles and contented waves.
Soon enough for the third time that evening, the houselights go down, members of the crowd shift forward in their seats, all eager and enticed even more so by the firefly-like lights that dazzle the stage, foregrounded to a backdrop that sets a scene quite like the insides of a hidden seaside cave. Grizzly Bear walk timidly onto the stage, take position, and open the set with Veckatimest opener, Southern Point, which begins the journey through the cave, waves crashing against jagged rocks as flashes of red and green lights make the band members appear almost evil as they belt out the chorus. The set ventures out of the cave, skips across the rock pools with Cheerleader, and dives into a warm ocean, where you simply float along to songs including Knife and, suitably, Deep Blue Sea. The lighting casting greens and blues across the stage and into the audience only heightens the oceanic experience. The vocals of all four members combined is truly delicious for the ears, harmonies sustained perfectly, resonating and filling the beautiful theatre to the brim with otherworldly power and weight. Particular highlights include the bittersweet, uptempo singalong Two Weeks, dreamlike and vocally astounding, particularly on Edward Droste’s part, Ready, Able, and older tracks like the ferocious Little Brother and On A Neck, On A Spit. The set is magical, with gracefully uninhibited vocals working triumphantly alongside musicianship that boasts accuracy, energy and complexity. Foreground leaves the audience still in silence, left in awe of it’s raw beauty and fragility, but the pace picks up again with the delightfully dissonant While You Wait For The Others. The first encore sees Daniel Rossen out on his own, playing an acoustic song which he says is “something he’s been working on”, and is simple and beautiful. The rest of the band then happily return to the stage to play one more song, and deliver an almost entirely a capella version of All We Ask, the harmonies quite breath-taking, leaving the audience in wonderment, admiration and genuine appreciation for what I personally, and many others I’ve spoken to have described as an outstanding display of talent and creative genius, a live experience never to be forgotten. Grizzly Bear make what was already astounding on record seem somehow even more extraordinary when reproduced and recreated live, an aural painting of imagination and originality, a sound securely owned and unquestionably mastered.
Listen to Cheerleader by Grizzly Bear here…