“We’d like to take a moment to thank the organisers and the animals.”
Just before Grizzly Bear took to the stage as part of the Melbourne Zoo Twilight series, it occurred to me that the last time I saw them in an outdoor environment was at the Harvest Festival back in 2012. I remember the day well – that morning, my wife discovered she was pregnant. On this idyllic warm autumn evening close to five years after he was born, my son is sat with me on the grass. It’s a precious moment.
A spread of picnic blankets covers the lawn for a good 100 metres in front of the stage; the crowd is cordial; the atmosphere perfect. Melbourne has laid on the ideal welcome for the band.
I’ve followed the Grizzly Bear story since their second album, Yellow House. They have a unique, unpredictable and inventive sound that doesn’t conform to any commercial agenda. Time between studio albums is painfully long for subscribers to the band, but they only make music when they’re ready, and nothing is going to impede that process. Grizzly Bear are one of the most interesting and exciting outfits to come out of the US in the last 15 years.
The band are in Australia touring their latest long player, Painted Ruins, released last year to critical acclaim. They begin with three out of six songs from the album they will play this evening. The electronic thrum of Mourning Sound and Three Rings drones into the night, the crowd abandoning their blankets to thicken around the stage.
Songs are selected from all the studio albums including a beautiful rendition of Foreground. The energy in the crowd soars with Sleeping Ute and Two Weeks and is complemented by the charm of crowd-favourite Knife. Known for their economy of words, this is the most vocal I have heard the band in the live sphere, with co-singer Ed Droste announcing that it’s “probably the biggest crowd we’ve played to in Melbourne.” Bassist and multi-instrumentalist Chris Taylor comments that when he learned of the zoo gig, he wondered whether “this was a low point in my career. Turns out it’s a highlight.”
And tonight they excel – Droste reaches his high notes with ease, and along with Taylor, provides superlative harmonies to Daniel Rossen’s soulful and sincere lead parts. As musicians, their talent is exceptional. Live, all the moving parts from their intricately crafted compositions come together with admirable precision.
For the encore, Shift is pulled from the debut album Horn Of Plenty and the set concludes with the emotive Sun In Your Eyes; its crescendo thunders through the sultry Victorian night.
Securing Grizzly Bear for the Zoo Twilight series was an inspired decision by the event’s organisers. It was a memorable performance on a memorable evening.