Concert Reviews

Grizzly Bear Survives Casa Bonita, Then Melts Faces at the Ogden

Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear Chris Walker
“That was fucked-up good,” a stoned-looking guy said to me as soon as Grizzly Bear finished its encore and the house lights in the Ogden Theatre came on. “I’m here alone and just had to tell someone,” he added.

I’d never heard the phrase “fucked-up good” before, but I had to agree with Cheech: What we’d witnessed from Grizzly Bear was pretty great.

For roughly an hour and a half on Sunday, December 3, those fortunate enough to be at the first of Grizzly Bear’s two sold-out shows in Denver were taken for a ride — with the band expertly behind the wheel. In terms of setting, it actually felt like we were all inside a bear’s den; while the Ogden Theatre already feels like a cave, that look was emphasized by curved, rumpled curtains that gave the illusion of granite rocks framing the band on stage.

Grizzly Bear’s four members, including drummer Christopher Bear, situated themselves in a straight line at the front of the stage, a democratic expression of how much each brings to the group — and also how ridiculously talented they are as multi-instrumentalists as they constantly added little flairs, key strokes, clarinet tones, clanging guitar riffs and vocal kisses to an ever-shifting mosaic of sound.

As an audience, we helplessly faced the onslaught of their mastery.

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Grizzly Bear
Chris Walker
The bandmembers knew exactly how to milk every twist, turn, dip and rise in their set for maximum emotional effect. Drawing from albums across their thirteen-year career, including 2017’s Painted Ruins, they allowed us to escape the vexing realities of what’s turning out to be a heavy time to be alive in America.

Our hearts were torn asunder by the slow, achingly beautiful harmonies on songs like “Shift” and “Foreground.” We exulted, with bass thundering in our chests, during the sweeping choruses of “On a Neck, on a Spit” and “And While You Wait for the Others.”

And Grizzly Bear even brought out a rarely performed tune just for Denver.

“This is one of our oldest songs, and we always play it when we’re here,” singer Ed Droste announced before launching into a lush rendition of “Colorado.”

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Grizzly Bear
Chris Walker
I’ve attended quite a few shows at the Ogden, and I’d never heard cheering so loud before an encore — which is so often just expected these days. A group of people started stomping their feet in rhythm, and soon half the theater was doing the same. It seemed like people were about to lose it. When the bandmembers came back out, even they looked surprised, with bassist Chris Taylor beaming and clasping his hands in gratitude.
The audience’s message to the band seemed clear: It’s been too long, but thank you.

In fact, the last time Grizzly Bear played in Denver was more than four years ago, on August 6, 2013.

So what did the group decide to do during a rare trip to the Mile High City?

“We went to Casa Bonita last night,” Ed Droste told the crowd. “So we experienced that Colorado legend.”

It was a risky move, going to the kitsch Mexican joint known for cliff-divers and Montezuma’s Revenge, but Droste gave the necessary follow-up answer:

“And nobody got sick!”

Thank goodness, because that would have been a travesty. Grizzly Bear was that fucked-up good.

Read our recent interview with Grizzly Bear bassist Chris Taylor on whether an indie scene exists anymore.
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Chris Walker is a freelancer and former staff writer at Westword. Before moving to the Mile High City he spent two years bicycling across Eurasia, during which he wrote feature stories for VICE, NPR, Forbes, and The Atlantic. Read more of Chris's feature work and view his portfolio here.
Contact: Chris Walker