Live review: Beach House and Grizzly Bear at the Palladium
Beach House and Grizzly Bear Tuesday night at the Hollywood Palladium had to be one of the more simpatico bills in recent memory. Both bands have a dreamy, oceanic quality that’s just as temperamental at times as the great sea -- sonic waves crash and ebb, toss you about or lull you to calm.
Last year, Baltimore’s Beach House put out its second album, “Devotion,” one of the most consistent artistic statements of 2008. Sure, pieces of this or that may wash into other bands, but the combination of Victoria Legrand’s drowned siren vocals and Alex Scally’s deceptively drifty guitar, all laced together with fog-light keys, sounds soulful and warped, like a Motown record left on the sand, the tempo slowed down by salt water.
At the Palladium, they were able to effectively re-create the pull of their album with the help of touring drummer Graham Hill, who played on a minimal kit, capped off by one cymbal. Legrand and Scally’s easygoing chatter -- at one point, she called the audience “young and fabulous” in an old lady voice -- helped to break up the sometimes slumberous mood of their work.
By the time Grizzly Bear took the stage, the stock-still audience was appropriately hypnotized but ready to climb to greater heights. “Veckatimest,” Grizzly Bear’s enchanted third album, takes the swirls of “Devotion” and suspends them across bigger landscapes -- the stakes feel higher, but in that, they also lose some drowsy appeal.
Brooklyn’s Ursidae crew have always been better musicians than most indie creatures trolling around blogsville, but after years of steady touring and three albums, they are coming into their own. It’s evident in the way they play -- they each strike at their instruments with measured force, not afraid of mistakes. The music of “Veckatimest” demands a certain all-or-nothing attitude. On the contrapuntal “Southern Point,” the band flirted with the edge of destruction, the fluttery synth and guitar arpeggios pulling them back from the edge, only to push them toward it again. It’s sunny folk rock, but on the run, chased by something dark and insatiable.
For the doo-wop spirited “Two Weeks,” the band was joined by Legrand, whose heavenly howl slipped right in while the bottle lights onstage flashed around them like especially aggressive fireflies. As Grizzly proceeded toward the encore, the towers of reverb got higher and higher. It was downright loud -- a point of pride for those who think the most tender racket can still bleed out the ears.
On a regrettable note, one of the last proper songs of the set, “While You Wait for the Others,” was not made glorious by that great white bear Michael McDonald, but alas, the eternally mellow was spoken for with the band’s encore: a dazzling cover of Carole King’s “He Hit Me (and It Felt Like a Kiss).”
-- Margaret Wappler