Grizzly Bear and Final Fantasy with the Brooklyn Philharmonic. Enough said, I had to go to the show that seemed like years in the making. I'd seen both Final Fantasy and Grizzly Bear before, but not with an orchestra! I am not one to pass up on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, especially when it's related to music.
As I arrived a little late, the first song that I heard was "Horsetail Feathers," a song off Final Fantasy's Plays to Please that was originally recorded with an orchestra (Listen here). To my surprise (and dismay), Final Fantasy aka Owen Pallett was without his usual main instrument. Trading in his violin, he was behind an upright piano and an electric piano for this performance. Maybe because he was accompanied by fifteen violinists, there wasn't really a need for another one. Perhaps I missed him on violin for an earlier song. Can someone fill me in on what happened before "Horsetail Feathers?" Either way, Final Fantasy sounded fantastic with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, as was expected by the nature of his music, and he even previewed some of his new material. Surprise guests Aaron Dessner and Bryan Devendorf of The National also joined Owen onstage on bass and drums, respectively. Bootlegs from the set, including two new songs, are available here via One For The Good Days.
Although listening to Final Fantasy with an orchestra was an incredible experience, I couldn't help but think that I preferred seeing Owen perform with Matt Smith a few weeks earlier at the Kitchen. If you missed out on that, imagine seeing just Owen play the violin but hearing the fullness of a much larger ensemble. It's an illusion, not a trick, that fools your eyes and ears. You can read about that show here. So, if you were somehow not very impressed by Final Fantasy, I strongly suggest that you see one of his solo shows and listen to his entire discography in the meantime. He is a brilliant artist and his music never fails to move me in some way.
While I had a clear idea of what Final Fantasy would sound like with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, I didn't really know what to expect from Grizzly Bear's set. They played a show with the LA Philharmonic last year, but it seems like they played a set separate from the orchestra. With arrangements by film score prodigy Nico Muhly, the show was guaranteed to be good. What an understatement. Nico did a phenomenal job of creating arrangements that enhanced Grizzly Bear's music without reinterpreting it to a point where its integrity was compromised. The guys also had some fun and dug out songs that they didn't normally perform, and Aaron and Bryce Dessner of the National made a couple appearances on the banjo and guitar throughout the night. One of the rare live songs, "Central and Remote," was one of my favorites of the night and one of the many songs that were complemented by the orchestra. For "Reprise," Daniel even brought out his banjo, which he said was a first for a Grizzly Bear show.
Whenever the orchestra rested for a song, I liked to watch the members watching the band. While most of the ensemble remained very composed, I caught one cellist tapping his bow to the beat (Hah!). Even when the orchestra did not play with Grizzly Bear, I never felt that there was a lacking depth of sound. Grizzly Bear didn't need an orchestra to put on a fantastic show, but it was a wonderful combination to experience, especially since we heard songs that they will unlikely play again unless they're with an orchestra. One thing to note was that they didn't perform "Knife," otherwise known as the perfect masochistic break-up song. Like Ed said in this interview with Pitchfork, Grizzly Bear seems to be tucking away the much-loved song, and tonight may have been the beginning of that end. But, that's okay with me, especially since they performed "Deep Blue Sea," my wish list song from last April.
Every time I see these guys, in whatever shape or form, I end up liking them even more. At this performance, I spent a lot of time watching the individual members of the band. Chris Bear never fails to entertain me, and I always enjoy watching him play the drums. He seems to play with restraint most of the time, until his hair goes flying around. But, even that is a bit restrained. Daniel Rossen always has the most serene look on his face when he sings, as if he were singing a lullaby. Chris Taylor has an essence that's been described as otherworldly. It's true, I sort of freeze whenever I see him. I once stood next to him during a Chairlift set, and I was distracted the entire time by the fact that I was standing next to Chris Taylor. The man plays so many instruments, he sings, and he has a list of production credits. Is there anything he doesn't do? And, there is Ed, the seemingly shy lead who never smiles at his own jokes. I'm pretty sure that Ed was wearing the same shirt from the last time I saw him. I'm not going to deny that he is my favorite person to follow on Twitter, and I love reading the Grizzly Bear blog. He's just so funny and witty!
The much-anticipated Veckatimest will be released on May 26. Of the set list below, "Ready, Able," "Two Weeks," "Dory," "While You Wait for the Others," and "Foreground" are all from the forthcoming album. I was obsessed with "While You Wait for the Others," but now "Ready, Able" may be my current favorite.
More on Final Fantasy here, Grizzly Bear here. Bootleg of the Grizzly Bear set posted on At Ease and can be found here (via You Ain't No Picasso). Great quality recordings of rare and new songs at One For The Good Days.
Pictures were prohibited and I managed to delete the one picture I had taken
Final Fantasy Setlist (via brooklynvegan comment)
None of You Will Ever See A Penny
Keep the Dog Quiet
Lewis Takes Action
He Poos Clouds
Midnight Directives/End of Time
Tryst with Mephistopheles
The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead (Many Ives Version)
Grizzly Bear Setlist
Central and Remote
While You Wait for the Others
Deep Blue Sea
He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)
Grizzly Bear encore Deep Blue Sea at BAM from lofi.tv on Vimeo.
This guy was ballsy. I could clearly see him taping this song, yet none of the BAM vultures were on him to make him stop.
The Butcher - Final Fantasy | Alternative Link
This Lamb Sells Condos - Final Fantasy | Alternative Link
Two Weeks (Live @ Boston MFA 08.14.08) - Grizzly Bear | Alternative Link
Easier - Grizzly Bear | Alternative Link
Head over to One For The Good Days for great quality recordings.