Friday night the four men of Grizzly Bear (along with help from touring musician Aaron Arntz) opened the second of two sold out shows at the 9:30 Club with “Speak In Rounds,” the raw and driving rocker from their latest effort, Shields. Flanked by a swarm of glowing “jellyfish” that floated and rearranged themselves throughout the duration set to deliver some of the most visually arresting lighting used at the 9:30 Club this year, the song segued into the ambient, aquatic vibe of fellow Shields track “Adelma,” temporarily turning the club into a sort of giant soothing aquarium. But that calm was short lived, and as the group closed in on the epic closing minutes of the track “Yet Again”, drummer Chris Bear traded one of his sticks for a Maracca and the show kicked into high gear.
While the setlists for this tour have generally been consistent, the first audible of the tour was called Friday night in the form of Yellow House’s bombastic closer, “Colorado.” The song has always been subject to a dramatic makeover; a true album version has only been played once, and then only because the band was backed up by an orchestra, allowing the unabashed layer of woodwinds to play. On Friday Grizzly Bear delivered a version of the song that fans of the band have become familiar with - multi-instrumentalist Chris Taylor, Bear and Daniel Rossen harmonized as Ed Droste took the lead, begging for an answer to the song’s question of “What now, now what?” as Arntz pulled double duty on the piano and trumpet to give the song a necessary and welcome depth..
Technical prowess isn’t something that you might associate with a lot of indie bands from Brooklyn but that criticism no longer applies to Grizzly Bear. A decade of touring and playing together has rendered them a nigh impeccable music machine that will do anything to pull off their studio creations in a live setting – right down to multi-instrumentalist Chris Taylor dropping to his knees for a flute solo before swapping it quickly for his clarinet without missing a beat. Seemingly unsatisfied though to maintain the status quo, fellow multi-instrumentalist Ed Droste was more vocal than ever (and played more guitar then ever!) while vocalist Daniel Rossen demonstrated his ever impressive chops on both the vox and the axe. With the addition of Aaron Arntz broadening the groups already larger than life sound on keyboards, songs old and new were executed with even more perfection than before.
The evening came crashing to an end with Veckatimest’s “Two Weeks” “While You Wait For The Others,” followed up by fan favorite “Knife” and the ”Heroin”-esque “Sun In Your Eyes” – a song that is itself like a high with the verses that build up to an orgasmic high in the chorus. As the band left the stage they thanked us all for two nights they’ll never forget in DC - and thanked the 9:30 Club for the cupcakes. Ed Droste made the remark that next time they should just play here [DC] six nights in a row, and challenge them to do that, not only to see if they could spend that week playing every song in their catalog, but only so I can give them every last dime that they deserve for being one of the finest bands out there in every aspect.