Because my friend and I mistakenly assumed that 8:00 pm meant “Doors Open,” we stumbled into the Tabernacle’s vestibule at 8:20 to find that Grizzly Bear was already a minute into “Southern Point,” the first song of the set. We hadn’t missed much, but I was disoriented. There’s something satisfying about seeing a band take the stage after waiting and letting anticipation build. Apparently we weren’t alone, though, since the venue didn’t really fill up for another hour.
Grizzly Bear sounded crisp and the tracks they played from Veckatimest still retained their sense of dream-like space even in the live format. After “Southern Point” they played “Cheerleader,” and the bass-line thumped aggressively through the song — sometimes I get fooled into thinking that Grizzly Bear makes polite music — and then they tore into the electric version of “Little Brother.” Beyond that, my memory for the setlist order gets a little hazy, but they played most of the tracks from the new album except for “Dory” and a few others, (I was disappointed by the absence of “Foreground”) and from Yellow House they also played “Lullaby,” “Knife,” and “On a Neck, On a Spit,” with which they closed their set.
I have to admit that walking into the show, my knowledge of the band (beyond the music itself) was pretty nonexistent, so I apologize if what I’m about to say is deadly obvious. Watching them play, I was impressed by their very “band-ness,” not just playing their parts but actually working together as musicians. I knew already that all band members could sing; live vocals can be very hit-or-miss but everyone’s delivery was pretty much flawless that night. The group’s solidarity was highlighted by the stage set-up, too. Each member was lined up at the front of the stage, instead of the usual drummer-in-back, bass-player-hanging-behind sort of arrangement. Droste and Rossen might be the chief songwriters, but onstage, nobody is the star. It makes sense for the music as well, in the way the guitar often spikes and the bass jabs in unison with the drums to punctuate certain notes.
By the time TV on the Radio took the stage a little after 10:00, the venue had filled up (and heated up, sweet Jesus!) and we were all crushed forward. The drums had been a little loud on the Grizzly Bear set, but for TVOTR both the drums and the feedback overwhelmed everything else. For a few songs, especially early on, it took me a while to make sense of the noise and pin down exactly which song I was supposed to be hearing. I was shocked that “Blues from Down Here,” which is naturally a chaotic track, actually came together well and sounded very sharp in the live performance. “Golden Age” and “Dancing Choose” sounded good, but unfortunately “Halfway Home” and “Dirtywhirl,” two of my favorites, suffered a little in the translation. They played a tight and energetic version of “Wolf Like Me” that had the whole crowd jumping around like Tunde Adebimpe himself, and had me very worried about the integrity of the flooring. They played a few older tunes like “The Wrong Way,” “Staring at the Sun,” and “Young Liars.” “A Method” from Return to Cookie Mountain made a surprisingly effective closer — to me, it had always seemed like sort of a tossed-off track on record — which was extended and given extra percussion by Ed Droste and a few stagehands who were spontaneously enlisted by the band.
Grizzly Bear played the stronger set by far, but what TV on the Radio lacked in sound quality, they made up for with enthusiasm.
I’ve just been looking at the lineup of album releases for the next couple of months, and it’s pretty impressive. Tuesday after next (May 19th) is a big one, with releases by Iron & Wine (not actually new, but a round-up of previously unreleased material), Jason Lytle (of Grandaddy) and John Vanderslice.
May 26th, of course, is the week we’ve all been waiting for when the new Grizzly Bear finally arrives (although it leaked awhile ago — I’m trying not to give in to temptation!).
And the following weeks will see new releases by Elvis Costello, Dirty Projectors, Riceboy Sleeps (the side project by Sigur Ros frontman), Regina Spektor, Dinosaur Jr., Wilco, and God Help the Girl (Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian’s solo project).
The current word on Mew‘s No More Stories… is an August 19th release (in Finland), with the first single “Repeater Beater” premiering the first of June (and a few European tour dates this summer with Nine Inch Nails. Weird). Woo! Something concrete, finally.
Also looking forward to having more time with music this summer as I leave the ghosts of the school year behind.