Review: Grizzly Bear at The Palais

Earlier this week Grizzly Bear singer Ed Droste took to social media to lament the prospects of his band’s upcoming Australian tour.

“Just found out despite huge crowds down under we are basically losing money,” he said on Instagram. It’s a common complaint amongst touring bands these days — by the time flights, logistics and crew are paid for and commissions are doled out, there is scant left for the ones actually playing the music.

That said, it’s hard to buy into Droste’s boasts at The Palais tonight. It’s not so much a huge crowd as a small gathering of indie die-hards; the huge crowd was assembled just across the river for Ed Sheeran. But if the New York band have a chip on their shoulder about being booked on the same night as the world’s biggest pop star, they’re certainly not showing it. In fact they begin with an apology for the late start (11:00pm on a Wednesday) as they themselves had just come from Adelaide Oval.

For their first ever visit to Adelaide, Grizzly Bear showcase the many highlights from their 2017 album Painted Ruins. The lush layering of washed guitars, fuzzy keys and the sublimely seductive twin vocals of Droste and Dan Rossen sound just as polished and flawless as you’d expect from a group who’ve spent 15 years honing their craft. And despite their reputation for sombre songwriting they’re easily at their best when they’re at their loudest. Mourning Sound and Aquarian are proof enough of this, the latter’s jarring guitar stabs all the more abrasive on the live stage.

The juxtaposition of the few hundred Grizzly Bear fans against the endless stream of people exiting Adelaide Oval visible from The Palais floor is hard to miss, and even Droste couldn’t resist. “It’s a beautiful setting to watch Ed Sheeran fans file out from,” he quips. In truth he is in good humour, although eager to rush through the set so they don’t break curfew. “That song goes out to triple j,” he says with tongue in cheek following fan favourite Two Weeks. “Now we’re a Double J band, whatever that means.”

Grizzly Bear are pitch- and note-perfect at The Palais tonight, even if they do meander a touch into sonic wastelands towards the end of their set. They are clearly a band who take an enormous amount of care into everything they do and end up sounding immaculate because of this. But none of this translates to making money, and just as the last few stragglers cross the footbridge behind Grizzly Bear at the end of their set, it’s not hard to see who’s made bank tonight and who’s missed out.

Grizzly Bear performed at The Palais on Wednesday, March 7.

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