Before the release of 2009's Veckatimest, Grizzly Bear stood at a career watershed of sorts. Critical darlings without much mainstream success, they could very well have continued in the direction set with 2007's Friend EP and become perennial indie overachievers, in the vein of the Liars, for example. Instead, they took a chance in reinventing themselves and knocked it out of the park with Veckatimest, the kind of album that's just as likely to show up on your dad's iPod as on yours. Extending their signature reverb- and harmony-soaked chamber folk into a songwriting tour de force, the album vastly improved on their already impressive output.
What remained to be seen, though, was whether Grizzly Bear could reproduce the complex textures of Veckatimest in a live setting. The answer is "yes, they can," if you were wondering.
At Vancouver's Vogue Theatre, the first thing that jumped out was the band's crackling musicianship: main vocalists Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen were flawless, and drummer Christopher Bear is far more accomplished than Grizzly Bear's recorded output suggests. Multi-instrumentalist Chris Taylor - tasked with reproducing Veckatimest's orchestral arrangements in addition to laying down his distinctive bass lines - played a flute and a clarinet into a looping device, deftly spinning musical lines into an imaginary orchestra that brought to mind Owen Pallett's Final Fantasy.
The show opened with the expansive, suite-like "Southern Point," which recalls Benjamin Britten's arrangements of English folk songs in its updating of classic folk tropes. The band proceeded to play most of Veckatimest, along with a selection of earlier work, finishing with their signature cover, a chilling rendition of the Carole King's "He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)." An impressive light show complemented the Vogue Theatre's creaky ambiance, and although the mix wasn't perfect (the Vogue was originally a movie theatre, and its acoustics aren't ideal), the performance was enthralling, a joyous escape from Vancouver's impending rainy season.