Grizzly Bear renders night of explorations at Greek


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By Gabriel Jones

You couldn’t entirely be blamed for thinking that Grizzly Bear starts most of their songs with – well, let’s see where this goes.

Usually the band’s exceptionally tight musicianship is able to tie all the spare and sprawling parts together. They write exploratory songs that start haltingly, deconstruct and nearly fall apart, like complicated machines with an overload of moving parts that break into fragments, then gather together for sharp melodies that soon break apart again and move toward new forms. Spare and lush by turns, stark and airless and then full and soaring, often with enough ideas in each song to fill an album, their music resembles a juggling act on a high wire, with just a thin but haunting motif to maintain some sense of groundedness amid the shifting landscape.

Their show Wednesday night at the Greek was a little more ragged and threadbare than usual, showing perhaps the wear of playing 18 cities in a little over three weeks in support of the band’s fourth album “Shields,” released last month. Ed Droste’s vocals sounded occasionally like he was trying to find the rest of his band mates; in other moments the band’s timing seemed just a slight step off, although they carried through gamely.

They similarly lacked the manic energy and virtuosity they showed when they played the Palladium in 2009, focusing more on the quiet spaces within their songs than the bursts of collective brilliance of which they are capable. Nonetheless there were ecstatic moments to be found – a hypnotic performance of “Foreground;” a masterly rendering of “Sun in Your Eyes” that exemplified Grizzly Bear at its Abbey Road-inspired best – to remind the audience of the heights they can reach.

Lower Dens opened the show with a calm, driving, introspective groove, resembling at times an even more somnolescent Beach House, or maybe the Brian Jonestown Massacre on muscle relaxant. Their songs set the tone for the evening with similarly exploratory melodies searching for form, with band leader Jana Hunter coming across like an even more emo Karen O for the math-rock set. Among their own highlights was a sumptuous dream-pop ballad that sounded like a great lost Cocteau Twins track, offering both here and throughout their set a promising direction for the next evolution in shoegaze.