"It's our final show of the tour supporting our last album, and we couldn't think of a more iconic and beautiful place to end it than here."
That's how Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste greeted a sold-out Sydney Opera House, kicking off a nearly two-hour-long set. The full thing was uploaded to YouTube as part of the opera house's new "Live at the House" series, and you can now stream it above. Oddly enough, the band doesn't come onstage until the 9:20 mark, but we've taken the initiative of skipping ahead for you to avoid a bunch of elevator music and unnecessary footage.
Over the course of the set's 21 songs, Grizzly Bear continually showcase their versatility and talent. All four core members (keyboardist Aaron Arntz is only part of the band on tour) sing, and everyone but workhorse drummer Christopher Bear plays multiple instruments. It's impressive as hell, especially when the band manages to cram indie pop, retro psychedelia, pastoral folk and even a bit of jazz into their cohesive sound. One minute Chris Taylor's puffing out fluttery flute lines like an Astral Weeks session man, then he unleashes a chugging, relentless bassline that belongs on a post-punk record, and it all blends seamlessly together.
On their albums, Grizzly Bear don't come across as musically fluid as they do when jumbling up selections from their discography into a lengthy setlist. This curatorial effect ends up making them seem endlessly flexible, and less buttoned-up than a thirty-second-long clip of their stately music would suggest was possible. The jagged edges of "Sleeping Ute" give way to the baroque beauty of "Cheerleader," which in turn is followed up by "Lullabye," an off-kilter jam highlighted by gorgeous vocal harmonies and delightfully fuzzy guitar lines. This concert will take you on a ride, and spit you out with a totally new outlook on Grizzly Bear (even if, like me, you've seen them live before).
According to a recent article in The Guardian, this Sydney Opera House show was the last time Grizzly Bear will perform for an indefinite period of time. After the concert, Droste said the band will "enter into the question mark of the future," with no plans for recording or touring in the upcoming year. Taking a break is understandable after a year when the band played over a hundred shows, but let's hope it doesn't last long.
Grizzly Bear at the Sydney Opera House 1.5.2014 setlist:
Speak in Rounds
A Simple Answer
While You Wait for the Others
On a Neck, On a Spit
Sun in Your Eyes
All We Ask (Acoustic)