Live at Massey Hall, Toronto (September 26, 2012)
Toronto, 1971, and Neil Young is playing an acoustic set at Massey Hall, the famed venue showcasing his sparse and haunting renditions that would come to be a landmark performance of his. The legacy of this performance was not lost on Grizzly Bear singer/guitarist Daniel Rossen, commenting after their opening song “Speak In Rounds” that Young’s live-album was a particular favourite of the band.
Much is to be said about the venue itself being perfectly suited to the band. Touring their recently released album, Shields, the Brooklyn four-piece create nuanced psych-folk that lends itself to concert-halls rather than outdoor festivals and rock clubs. Watching them live reinforces the idea of them as a unit. Each member contributes his share to a song tastefully, often switching between instruments while never being over indulgent and over-stepping his boundaries. Playing nine out of Shields’ ten songs, the band recreated the album effortlessly.
In addition to an extra member on keys and horns, the band also invited some special guests to share the stage. Mid-way through their set, the band was joined by Owen Pallett, adding violin swells on “Half Gate” and the slow-burning “What’s Wrong.” To close their set, singer Ed Droste introduced another good friend, the newly crowned 2012 Polaris Prize winner, Leslie Feist who merrily danced around the stage and added vocals to their break-out hit “Two Weeks”.
While a treat to the ears, the night was not without its other sensory accomplishments. Behind the band, jellyfish-like lanterns floated up and slowly sunk, offering an incredible visual to accompany their reverb soaked harmonies.
But back to the venue. Before starting their encore with “Knife”, bassist Chris Taylor commented on Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall album, noting that the sound of the crowd cheering for an encore is one moment he associates with the space. Paying reverence to the acoustic qualities of the building, the band ended the night with an acoustic rendition of “All We Ask”, their four part harmonies echoing perfectly off the room and eliciting the crowd to join in and share the moment in the legendary space.
Words: Daniel Halyburton
Check out our pics from the show below, courtesy of Stephanie Coffey Photography