Grizzly Bear's songs can soothe a troubled mind and mend a broken heart, but they can also stir your emotions and quicken your pulse.
All those facets of the band's sound and style were on display at the Palace Theatre on Friday night, as the one-time Brooklyn-based quartet (along with touring keyboardist Aaron Arntz) returned to the Twin Cities for the first time since 2012 in support of their new record, Painted Ruins.
The stage was decorated with a series of diaphanous scrims which, when the lights hit them just so, made it look like the band were performing inside of a haunted cave. That simple but striking set perfectly augmented the band's dreamy, textured arrangements and soaring harmonies.
Grizzly Bear are skilled in crafting intense moods that radiate warmly within their music, but there’s an untethered freedom in those same numbers that allows their material to mean vastly different things to each listener. One fan can hear an adventurous call to see the world in the same song that suggests the familiar comforts of home to another.
The 95-minute, 17-song set drew generously from throughout the band's 15-year career, and surprisingly offered up more songs from 2009's Veckatimest than from their new record. The band fluidly transitioned from one tune to the next during the well-paced show, but when they addressed the crowd they shared a couple endearing stories.
"The first time we played here, it was at a diner,” frontman Ed Droste recalled. “The Uptown Diner [Bar]. There were about 15 people there, and most of them were visibly annoyed that we were making noise while they were trying to eat. Here's a song from that era." A gorgeous take on Yellow House standout "Lullabye" followed, with bassist Chris Taylor playing a bassoon as the track swelled to a free-jazz excursion.
"Speak In Rounds" and "Sleeping Ute" added to the experimental, adventurous portion of the set, before the familiar, vibrant strains of "Two Weeks" rang out, led by Daniel Rossen's sprightly keys. Throughout the set, the band's resonant harmonies echoed the West Coast vibe of the Beach Boys, while the songs themselves evoked a blissful period of time that was fleeting but pure, and might not return again.
"We appreciate that there's an ice skating rink across the street," Droste said affectionately about the rink in Rice Park. "The whole band had a nice pre-show skate there earlier." No quicker way to ingratiate yourself with the State of Hockey than admitting to a nice free skate before your show. But by that point we were all well under Grizzly Bear's spell, especially after a haunting take on "Foreground," complete with shimmering disco ball lights.
"Knife" had a '50s charm to it, as if the band were performing at an indie Brooklyn sock-hop, while "Three Rings" was textured and pulsing, revealing an emotional depth that was fractured but hopeful. Rossen returned to the keys for a glorious version of "Sun In Your Eyes," which built to a dramatic, discordant explosion of sound, replete with Taylor's wailing saxophone.
A microphone issue kept the band off stage for longer than normal during the encore, with Droste warning that if they didn't get it resolved "we'll just hang out together awkwardly like a bad Tinder date." And after the issue got sorted out, Droste joked,"Now we're going to play the quietest song of the whole fucking set."
A delicate, whistle-laden version of "Shift" followed, with the stage awash in deep blue lights, like we were all adrift in a lonely ocean waiting to be rescued. Fittingly, "While You Wait For the Others" closed out the night on a hopeful high, suggesting that we can all count on each other for creative guidance, truth, and substance amidst the empty lies and corporate greed assailing us from all sides.
Losing All Sense
Fine For Now
Speak In Rounds
On A Neck, On A Spit
Sun In Your Eyes
While You Wait For The Others