Review: Grizzly Bear light up Tampa's Ritz Ybor with swooning indie-rock harmonies
“Damn, Tampa, thank you,” Grizzly Bear singer Ed Droste told a packed Ritz Ybor Wednesday night. “It’s always the cities you never expect to bring the most.”
What can we say? Tampa was ready to party.
For months now, Grizzly Bear’s appearance at the Ritz has felt like more than just another concert. To a certain segment of Tampa’s indie-loving scene, the critically beloved Brooklynites were the living embodiment of the Band That Never Comes to Florida. They weren’t the only such band (we’re looking at you, Arcade Fire), but their indifference toward touring the Sunshine State somehow felt like an indictment of Florida’s hipster-cultural worth – which might explain why Wednesday’s long-awaited set seemed to draw out every hipster in Central Florida.
It’s a silly notion, reading so much into the touring habits of an indie rock band. But this much can’t be argued: The wait was worth it.
Grizzly Bear’s deceptively simple indie-rock songs are layered with intricate musicianship; singers Droste and Daniel Rossen swapped lead vocal duties as they switched from guitars to synths to pianos. Every song featured harmonies from their bandmates, bassist Chris Taylor and drummer Christopher Bear, whose beats formed the bedrock to Grizzly Bear’s polyrhythmic pop gems.
Droste’s swoony New Wave croon is Grizzly Bear’s calling card, and he got to show it off on the gentle, poetic Shift and yearning, lovely Foreground. And on the infectiously joyous Two Weeks, the band’s best-known song, he cajoled the crowd into joining in on an eruption of harmonious “Whoa-oh-ohs.”
Rossen has more of a traditional rock voice, and while Grizzly Bear isn’t exactly the most toe-tapping band, he turned A Simple Answer into a rousing Tears For Fears-like rocker, until it devolved into a spacy, psychedelic denouement.
Grizzly Bear’s setlist ended with Sun In Your Eyes, a grand tower of avant-jazzy ambition, but they delivered a surprising and thrilling three-song encore, including two breakthrough tracks from their 2006 album Yellow House: The gorgeous, swirling, California-pop ballad Knife and a rambling, rollicking On A Neck, On A Spit.
Judging from recent setlists, Grizzly Bear doesn't always play those two songs, especially not back to back in the encore. But hey, Tampa had waited long enough for a Grizzy Bear concert. We deserved it.
Wednesday’s opening act, Montreal ambient duo Majical Cloudz, offered a set that was oddly captivating, if only for its sheer weirdness.
Singer Devon Walsh made for a strange frontman, alternately mumbling, moaning, skulking in and out of the stage’s spotlight, stripping off his shoes and socks, climbing into the crowd to sit on the ballroom floor, and generally acting nervous and/or confused. Musically, though, apart from one a cappella poem-song, it was a chilly collection of soundscapes that blended elements of James Blake, Nine Inch Nails and Morrissey.
Baffling at times, bewildering at others, the set still made us want to give Majical Cloudz’s new album Impersonator another spin. Sometimes, it’s the artists you never expect to bring the most.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*