I went to see the Grizzly Bear show at the O2 Academy last night (9th of October, 2017). It’s unusual for me to get the early twenties “I’m going to see a b-b-band” feeling, but I was looking forward to this one. Grizzly Bear put on a solid rock show, and Liima are great. It’s not often that the opening act is just as exciting as the main act.
Liima is a side project of three of the guys from Efterklang and a Finnish drummer, so you know it’s going to be fun. Everytime I see anything that those guys come up with (last time was Efterklang’s opera, Leaves, at the Barbican), it is nothing like I have seen them play before; it looks like a brand new, exciting band. Tatu Ronkko switched out his quirky percussion he played during the last tour for rock drums with trigger pads, which was a good call in a venue full of Grizzly Bear fans. Casper Clausen flipped between three microphones during songs, adding a beautiful cacophony to his already strong frontmannery. I do love Efterklang ….I mean Liima. Both.
Grizzly Bear was, well, weird. If you’ve seen them play before, you’ll know that the four (main) members line up along the front, showing that there is no “front man” – every member is equal. Last night they did line up, but it was way up the back of the stage. Why do that? I initially thought there would be a travelator on stage that slowly pulled them forward towards the audience. But no. They stayed up the back for the entire set. It was alienating. They were slick and professional, and played perfectly well, but that was on my mind throughout the show.
Also, the last time I saw Grizzly Bear (at the Liquidroom in 2013), the sound was crystal clear and every virtuoso note and hit was heard. Not so with the O2. I’m not a fan of the acoustics in there at the best of times, but the sound for Grizzly Bear last night was muddy and the mix was odd. It was alright for songs from Yellow House (which is my preferred album anyway) because those tracks are floaty and can use the room’s reverb, but the later albums need clarity.
I found myself celebrating anytime they played tracks from Yellow House or Veckatimest, and switching off when they played tracks from Painted Ruins. How cliche of me to think, “I like their old stuff better.” But it’s true, I really do.