Live Review: Grizzly Bear, Jens Lekman

16 March 2018 | 10:26 am | Jake Sun

"There's certainly no mistaking the abundant orchestrations and mesmerising vocal harmonies of this quartet."

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Sweden's Jens Lekman provides a quaint little set, opening the night on a bit of lighter-hearted note with a cover of The Lovin' Spoonful's Do You Believe in Magic. He repeats the question at the end of the song 'til he receives a positive response from the crowd; this kind of rapport proving crucial in a set built on whimsical stories and songs that earnestly draw their essence from the very fabric of human friendships and connection. Hotwire The Ferris Wheel and A Postcard To Nina are the most successful of these types of song tonight, Lekman tenderly plotting out sketches of narrative before pulling us into the full frames of the songs. From here, his storytelling does a skilful job of seducing us into running away with him for just this little while. 

It's quite bewildering that it's taken this long for Grizzly Bear to play their own headlining show in Brisbane. After a run of three festival performances over the years, tonight they finally come bearing the full package and QPAC proves to be the perfect venue to house the intricacies of their music. Their fans are understandably giddy with excitement at the prospect of seeing Grizzly Bear in their own right, but, set length aside, there's just really no anticipating exactly what a huge difference it is until they actually unleash the sheer immensity and grandeur of their sound upon us. 

Two layers of curtains, made of what looks to be a ruffled gauze-like fabric, frame the stage from either side with a third creating the backing. These stage dressings have a curious appeal before the band even take the stage, but once the performance takes flight they animate in a stellar light show, producing a deep range of captivating effects that truly enhance Grizzly Bear's serene songs.

They open with one of their recent masterstrokes, Four Cypresses, and from the get-go their sound is absolutely bewitching. The sonag are as dynamic and nuanced as they appear on record, but the live arena also adds extra energy. In select moments the songs hit with such force that one could be forgiven for mistakenly losing themselves under the false impression they've stumbled into a post-rock gig. But only for the briefest of moments, since there's certainly no mistaking the abundant orchestrations and mesmerising vocal harmonies of this quartet.

The four core members and additional live appendage, keyboardist Aaron Arntz, line the front of the stage, manning the helm on a vast bay of instruments behind them. The venue already provides some sense of intimacy and this upfront stage configuration concentrates this feeling wonderfully. Add to this the consistent sense of sincerity in Ed Droste's words spoken between songs, and you have the makings of a truly special and personal-feeling performance.

The major focus of tonight's setlist is split nearly evenly between the band's latest record, Painted Ruins, and the breakthrough opus, Veckatimest, but they give us a little taste of everything, including a few songs from Shields, a couple from Yellow House and a lone cut from their debut, Horn Of Plenty. The set does well to showcase the full scope of their creative range throughout, but this becomes even more explicit toward the end when Foreground, Knife and Three Rings are contrasted side by side. Shift and Sun In Your Eyes really accentuate their vaired output; the composition of the latter delivering a great bounty of instrumentation. Chris Taylor is seen hurriedly switching back-and-forth between sax and bass a number of times throughout the duration of this song.

It may have been a long time coming, but the show's rewards certainly clear the great heights of our expectations. The sheer majesty of this performance puts Droste's recent comments, concerning the band's projections of suffering a financial loss on this Australian tour, into an even more shameful context. The music industry is in a dire state indeed when a band of this level can't even cover the cost of bringing their music to their fans, but here's hoping that the enduring spirit of creativity and culture can shine some light on this shadow of ignorance in the days to come.