Grizzly Bear – Live

Manchester Cathedral, 04/11/2009
By Chris Gilliver

Today I realised that in the last 3 days I had completed visits to the only unholy trinity of history’s big businesses. It started with Daniel Johnston at the town hall on Tuesday (political), Grizzly Bear at Manchester cathedral last night (religious), and today I went to Tesco (commercial). Truly it has been an evil, if intermittently pleasurable, time. 

Anyway, this review is supposed to be about Grizzly Bear, so before you bare your teeth and shout at me to get on with it Monty Python style I will…well…get on with it. 

I feel ambivalent about shows in religious buildings. The last two I attended marked, perhaps, the two best and worse shows I’ve ever been to. Neil Halstead blew me up into the bell tower, and the ambient night was bad in the extreme. I mean if a man can pause to check his mobile phone half way through a “song” without it affecting the overall sound there’s something deeply wrong going on. Tonight Grizzly Bear neither achieve such heavenly heights nor hellish lows.  

The surroundings are beautiful. The lanterns that look to my eyes like hanging vodka jars, prettily light up the stunning surroundings, and the reverberation of the vocal harmonies sounds epic, one step short of Gregorian chanting…but that’s half the problem. Rather than play down the magnitude of the occasion, they emphasise it. This muddies the sound, and creates an atmosphere that’s hard to relate to. It’s like they’re trying to create the soundtrack to Jesus levitating to heaven. 

This is emphasised by the minimal beauty of Shift, which underplayed, highlights the OTT nature of the rest of the set. While You Wait For The Others is great, and Two Weeks, the song we all came here to hear, would be an outstanding moment in any set bar none, but the rest of the night is slightly boring. It’s a sad comment to make for a gig, which is outstanding in every way other than the performance itself.

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