Concert Review by Connor Holm
Last Thursday (Oct 23) Grizfolk and Bastille came to the Masonic Temple in Detroit. Grizfolk is a 5 piece band that was mostly unknown a year ago. They released their 5 song EP, From The Spark, in February 2014. Each song pulls from the Swedish and American influences the band members bring with them to create an exciting and unique folk, rock, electronic sound. However, their live performance is what differentiates Grizfolk from others.
I first saw Grizfolk with a small crowd of people gathered on a glowing, blue skied day. Despite the small crowd, every single person there ended up dancing and cheering as Grizfolk engaged the crowd like they were giving a personal concert to each and every audience member; this set transformed an average recorded EP to a fantastic live experience. Admittedly, however, I dismissed them overall, thinking the appeal came more from the magic of the intimate setting rather than the band itself.
Thursday night, in front of a crowd many times that of when I saw them last spring, Grizfolk brought that glowing blue sky right back to my mind. Grizfolk’s ability to enliven the audience wasn’t the slightest bit diminished in the larger venue, as people—I presume a vast majority were awaiting Bastille—all pushed into the main floor to get close to the young band that clearly meshed their presence on stage with the attitude of their music.
Musically, I was delighted. From a purely analytical basis, there were many aspects of the show that had me nodding my head. Grizfolk was well balanced, and each member played an important role with each note they struck. The drumming drove the band forward without overpowering them, maintaining the integrity of the musicality present in drummer Bill Delia’s recordings. The performance had a good range of dynamics that rose and fell, drawing thrilled hands to the air and then let them rest to process the musical intricacies present in their eclectic sound. Lead singer, Adam Roth, powerfully delivers the lyrical sentiments present in Grizfolk’s music. Their songs speak to the difficulties of life with fitting titles like “The Struggle”, “Vagabonds”, and “Hymnals.” Roth’s voice comes with an equal level of sobering earnestness and a tone of hope that keeps the songs’ spirits alive. Imagine yourself as a young child at the playground with a concerned, young mother explaining all the dangers to be wary of in the area. Then with an assured smile and glimmer in her eye, she ushers you off to experience what is, at that moment, your entire world. That was the moment Grizfolk brought to the Masonic Temple, only with music for words and the world for a playground.
I made sure to bear in mind that most opening bands are there to serve a purpose, preparing the crowd for the main performers. To that end, I would say Grizfolk did an incredible job, and may even have been overqualified for the job. Not a person in the crowd was sleepy or sitting anxiously tweeting, texting or looking for a tinder match to talk to before Bastille took the stage. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if Grizfolk gained quite a few fans after their performance.
Bastille came in quietly, but strong, with the popular “Things We Lost in the Fire” and a quick movement to the more upbeat moment in the song. I was excited to see what Bastille would do live and to hear frontman, Dan Smith, with his impressive vocal range, cool British accent, and what I’d hoped to be a similar demeanor to the one given in their acoustic recording of “Pompeii” recorded in Paris. Watching that video, I always got the feeling that Bastille has a level of discrete attention to the important elements of a performance to touch just the right chords in the audience. Some of these flavors were present in Bastille’s performance, while others often fell flat.
If I closed my eyes, it would ALMOST feel like nothing changed from my expectations to what manifested in reality. As I had hoped, Dan Smith’s voice left none to be desired. Ears swooned as his articulation balanced gorgeous notes that resonated through the Masonic Temple. Sadly, the rest of the band didn’t seem to follow suit. The subtleties that permeate their recorded albums got lost in the heavy drumming and generally over-amped sound of their live performance. I was not expecting a rock concert, but that’s what it felt like Bastille was trying to give me. My favorite part of the concert featured the rest of the band off to the side of the stage while Smith played keyboard and sang solo. Spotlighted and facing away from the crowd, he became the beacon of inspiration that he is in each song the group produces.
This moment of simplicity is exactly what makes them great. Bastille in a white arching room in Paris or Dan Smith standing solo and quiet on a stage in Detroit, these are the things that get people to buy tickets to Bastille. They give a level of sincerity that has listeners feeling connected and transmuted to a new, more capable self. Unfortunately, Bastille’s performance just didn’t carry that same torch. The triangular video screen in the background of the stage bore that sincerity. The videos on it fit each song played and connected the audience with the emotions Bastille hoped to convey. Sadly, they attempted to incorporate a separate lightshow to the set. The lights detracted from the sincerity I like, and made me feel estranged, like I was at a poorly done EDM concert.
The attendees in the crowd ranged from couples who appeared to be in their mid 30’s, to college students, to young teenage girls mesmerized by Smiths poor dancing (more on that later) and smooth accent. But overwhelmingly I noticed people seemed to want what I wanted. They wanted to put their lighters in the air, sway, and sing along to the songs they fell in love with; not be bombarded by a loud rock sound and mediocre lightshow. There were a great deal of couples embraced in each others arms, but not one of them was fist pumping and awkwardly jumping back and forth—like Dan Smith did.
There were a few songs that stood out. In particular, the band’s remix, “No Angels”, of The XX’s “Angels” and TLC’s “No Scrubs” was a great live experience. They combined the two songs in a way that drew out the best of each. Perhaps borrowing from other performers causes them to settle in and focus on the substantive elements of the music. Bastille’s last two songs (pre-encore), “The Draw” and “Flaws”, finally showed the musicality from the whole band that I had been hoping for and left the crowd cheering for an encore. This came in the form of “Get Home”, “Of the Night”, and a rendition of their most popular song, “Pompeii”, done with Grizfolk. With so many people on stage singing the opening “Ay Ay Oh,” a unique feeling of community connected the crowd and the performers. Then as the chorus hit, the rock mood that Bastille had been effusing the entire concert finally hit home and had every single audience member singing unabashedly.
Acoustic Pompeii video:
See the set list for the entire concert below:
- Things We Lost in the Fire
- Weight of Living, Pt. II
- Laura Palmer
- Laughter Lines
- Bad Blood
- These Streets
- The Silence
- No Angels
- The Draw
- Get Home
- Of the Night