Grizzly Bear’s show last night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music was a milestone of several sorts. Their first public performance since October, it was a golden opportunity to hear some brand-new selections from Veckatimest (out May 26) — an album so eagerly awaited that fans have set up a dedicated blog to chronicle every crumb of pre-release hype. What’s more, the band was backed onstage by the Brooklyn Philharmonic, promising a rare treat. Orchestral accompaniment can have a magical effect on indie rock, the classical instruments coloring in details and adding unexpected dimensions to the music. That’s how it felt when Joanna Newsom played BAM with the Philharmonic last February, and the same was often true for Grizzly Bear last night. They played 2006’s “Central and Remote” for the first time in concert, finally able to do justice to its epic swells and falls with the Philharmonic’s assistance. The orchestra also helped them debut the even older “Campfire” and the new song “Dory,” among others, as well as enabling a wonderful extended version of “Colorado.” Credit for all these highlights also belongs in part to modern-classical wunderkind Nico Muhly, who wrote the orchestralarrangements and sat in on piano and celeste.
Yet the Philharmonic didn’t join in on every song, and the best moments might have come when the four Grizzly guys were up there playing by themselves. “Two Weeks,” a song that has yet to be released in any form, inspired applause with its opening notes anyway. The crowd knew from seeing it played on Letterman last year or from hearing live MP3s that they were in for something lovely, and they were right — singer Edward Droste’s voice has never sounded richer. And Daniel Rossen’s violent guitar and wistful vocals were transfixing on “Little Brother (Electric).” As the Philharmonic members put down their instruments during these tunes, their conductor/music director Michael Christie sat there right on stage, watching the band in awe. He was doubtless seeing the same thing as we in the audience: Grizzly Bear is a band capable of such extraordinary textures and hues, such dynamic shifts and emotional resonances, that they hardly need an orchestra behind them. The Philharmonic’s contributions were sweet, but they were just icing on an already delectable cake.
Were any of you at BAM last night? What was your favorite part of the show? No footage from last night has turned up on YouTube yet,sadly, so you’ll have to take my word for it if you weren’t there — and check out a year-oldperformance of “Colorado,” sans orchestra but still awesome, below.