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MUSIC REVIEW | Bear In Heaven at the 7th Street Entry: Great expectations not fully met
The one sentiment I’ve heard, almost more than any band that is named Bruce Springsteen or Radiohead, was about how great Bear In Heaven is to see live. That sentiment was 100% true. Their performance in 2010 at the Turf Club is one of the few shows I’ve continued to talk about for the past two years. Not only have I talked about it but everyone, literally EVERYONE, I’ve talked to that saw them live in 2010 has raved about the experience. I’ve pined to see them again ever since then. However, like everything in life with expectations are so high you usually can only feel a little bit let down.
Through billowing fog and swirling atmospheric synths the band emerged on April 17th at the 7th St. Entry, opening with “Idle Hands.” Churning and pounding drums propelled the song forward as lead singer Jon Philpot’s vocals, shifted up an octave, danced over the foundation. As they moved across the stage and their massive sound belted through the speakers it seemed like the Entry’s stage had expanded to accommodate their sound.
Watching Bear In Heaven play live is like listening to the future. What does that mean? I don’t exactly know, but the way the combine their prog, synth, kraut, and dance influences creates a dichotomy where the narrative of their music blended with the sound of their music at times reminds me of a dystopian future. (Like I said how the music it feels is incredibly hard to pin down. It’s entirely possible that I just described the type of music preferred by Han Solo).
What I can accurately describe is that they are a very good live band that has only matured and become more confident since their last tour. One of the most endearing qualities about the band is that they take playing music seriously, but they love doing it and that joy is apparent in their performance. Backed by tall tubes of flashing lights the Philpot and bassist Adam Wills took every opportunity they had to dance around the stage. Philpot using instrumental breaks to free himself from the mic-stand to dance in the most giddy of fashions; huge smile on his face, hips thrusting and hands over his head snapping to the beat.
Despite their eagerness to perform the crowd didn’t seem to react how they would have liked. Crowd favorite “Lovesick Teenagers” got most of the crowd moving but beyond that the crowd seemed to either not really connect with the band or unsure of how they were supposed to move to the music. Songs like “Kiss Me Crazy’ were incredibly exciting, with cymbals crashing and Philpot’s vocals fluttering between sweet tones and then changing into guttural screams. The way he manipulates his voice is like in a creepy child in a horror film, it seems innocent at first blush but has the ability to be something much more sinister.
Bear In Heaven is a very impressive live band that makes music that needs to be consumed live. I didn’t take an exit poll but based on what I heard people around me saying they also thought it was good. However, was this a memorable show that will keep people clamoring until their next album? Probably not. Despite the band being better at performing live, this show just simply didn’t live up to lofty past standards. (I say that meaning I thought the show would be a 9 and it ended up being a 7.5). I have to believe that is because the songs on I Love You, It’s Cool just don’t quite resonate in an immediately organic way with audiences.
Halfway through the set the band played “Reflections of You,” Philpot singing the chorus says, “I want to run to you, but my legs won’t respond / I want to know exactly what you are.” I want to rave about Bear In Heaven, I want to tell people they should be listening to them, but I’m not sure this was the show to get me to do that.
Bear In Heaven
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©2012 Peter Black (text) and Jeff Rutherford (photos)