Bear’s Den Setlist
01/29—Toronto, ON—The Phoenix
01/31—Boston, MA—Brighton Music Hall
02/01—New York City, NY—Bowery Ballroom
02/02—Philadelphia, PA—Underground Arts
02/03—Brooklyn, NY—Music Hall
02/04—Washington, DC—U Street Music Hall
02/06—Atlanta, GA—Terminal West
02/07—Nashville, TN—3rd and Lindsley
02/09—Houston, TX—Raven Tower
The evening opened with a half-hour solo acoustic set from Louisiana singer-songwriter Gill Landry, who is finishing up new music to release the follow up to 2015’s self-titled full-length on ATO Records. The ex-Old Crow Medicine Show guitarist used the storytelling of his lyrics and hollowed baritone of his voice to paint pictures of lonely highways, fully fleshed character studies, heartbreak and some redemption.
Often crafting songs from people he’s met along the way, there is a campfire feel to his storytelling songs like ‘Denver Girl’ and ‘Just Like You’ and Landry dusted off his OCMS song ‘Genevieve’, a haunting tune evoking his native bayou country singing a eulogy of a woman stealing a younger man’s heart described aptly with its lyric, “Creole queen, with your love like fire and your heart like a guillotine”.
The ninety-minute headlining set from Bear’s Den started ominously, with dry ice fog pumped on to a dimly lit stage with the band’s logo as backdrop and the synth chimes of the Terminator 2 theme as their intro music, but things softened quickly as the band started with the title track from their latest, Red Earth & Pouring Rain (Communion Records).
The band is recently down to just a duo, as just singer-guitarist Andrew Davie and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Jones remain after bandmate Joey Haynes’ departure last year, but the band muscles up their live show by tripling its current size, becoming a sextet.
The band plays an addictive blend of highly polished anthemic folk rock, not dissimilar to Mumford and Sons, as members came up in the ranks at roughly the same time, coming together to help form Communion Records, and are also in the same sonic wheelhouse as Frightened Rabbit, Elbow and others. The band’s evocative lyrics and widescreen influences (i.e. director Robert Altman, painter Edward Hopper, author Raymond Carver) have helped build their fan base and this night at the Fine Line was one of the most attentive crowds at this venue, in some time.
‘Emeralds’ was played early on, one of the most anthemic on the new record followed soon after by ‘Stubborn Beast’, maybe the earliest song the band has written, and admittedly never quite figured out to perform live, which is why it’s rarely played.
For 2013’s ‘Don’t Let the Sun Steal You Away’, the band decided to sing it bare and off-mic, as the hushed crowd whispered along with the chorus, then the ache of Davie singing “Somewhere deep down I still believe you’ll always be the love of my life” on ‘Roses on a Breeze’ awakened emotions we’ve all felt.
Synth chimes punctuated ‘Auld Wives’ and the band finished their main set with ‘Above the Clouds of Pompeii’, a Best Song Muscially and Lyrically-nominated number for the prestigious Ivor Novello Awards, with Davie sarcastically teasing this was “100%, our last song”, pretending to not be aware of the encore process and ended with the drummer and keyboardist both playing horns.
Then encore began with the pensive ‘Napoleon’ which looks back on childhood memories and possible amends, then was followed with a banjo-plucking ‘Gabriel’, performed by half the band acoustically in the middle of the burgeoning floor crowd.
Returning to the stage, Davie explained their custom of doing a cover of a song of local significance on every stop of this tour, then brought out UK sisterly trio, The Staves (recent transplants now living in the metro) out help to sing harmonies on Prince’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ (though done more in the Sinead O’ Connor style). The groups were very familiar with each other from their Austin to Boston tour a few years ago, involving five VW camper vans, which was subsequently turned into a documentary film.
Ending with ‘Agape’, the overall set felt like Davie’s aspiration for the new record- “the idea of driving forwards while looking in the rear view mirror- a sense of contrary motion”; though based on their crowd size and reception, the only direction Bear's Den will be going is forward and upward.
Bear's Den at Fine Line Music Cafe, Minneapolis (25 Jan 2017)