Bear’s Den @ Birmingham Institute – 2nd November 2016

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Entering my favourite Birmingham venue on a Wednesday night, the buzz is tangible. Fresh from selling out the 5000-capacity Brixton Academy in their native London, Bear’s Den are back on home turf after a sold out run of significantly smaller shows in America in support of their new sophomore record “Red Earth & Pouring Rain,” and all in attendance no doubt feel privileged to have the band in the intimate confines of the Institute. This show has been sold out for weeks so it’s unlikely we’ll get to see them in a room this small again for a while.

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A spooky science-fiction-like intro starts the show, and rumbles on for a few minutes while blue spotlights swirl around the stage, before Bear’s Den arrive and launch into Red Earth and Pouring Rain and then Emeralds, the two tracks that open the new record.

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Elysium, from 2014 debut record “Islands,” is up next. With an atmospheric drum intro and haunting mandolin that leads into a soft trumpet outro, it’s a beautifully crafted song, and sounds tremendous in the live setting. Greenwoods brings expertly-crafted harmonies into the mix from multi-instrumentalist and band co-founder Kevin Jones, and touring member Christof van der Ven.

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The band always look like they’re enjoying every minute, trading smiles as they jam together centre stage and looking genuinely moved when the entire room sing every word right back at them during the final bars of Isaac. The show then goes up a notch with the announcement that the next song, Sophie, will be done without microphones, or indeed any instrument amplification. Everyone quietens down and the band dazzle with their raw delivery. The room is absolutely silent, save for the band, and this remains the case, until the conclusion of the song, at which point the silence is obliterated by a hail of screams from the audience.

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Roses On A Breeze and Fortress come next, followed by a rousing rendition of the classic Auld Wives, with Andrew’s forceful delivery of “I call your naaaame!!” and “Who are youuuuu?!!!!” reverberating across the room. Above the Clouds of Pompeii is an epic closing to the main set. It’s a song that really highlights the songwriting and musicality of the people on stage. You could absolutely imagine it in an arena setting; something that may occur in the not too distant future.


They unsurprisingly return to the stage for Napoleon, which fades out emotively with trumpets, and then Dew On The Vine, with more 3-piece harmonies added to by the enthusiastic crowd. For Gabriel, they elect to go unplugged again, but this time in the middle of the room surrounded by fans, which again sounds glorious in conjunction with the complete silence of the crowd. Upon returning to the stage, they just have one song left. Agape is the closest Bear’s Den have to a classic, but they’re still a very new band. Full credit to them too, almost 2 hours of music and 19 songs from just 2 albums is good value by anyone’s standards!


Set list:
Red Earth & Pouring Rain
Broken Parable
Greenwoods Bethlehem
Stubborn Beast
The Love We Stole
Love Can’t Stand Alone
Roses On a Breeze
When You Break
Auld Wives
Above the Clouds of Pompeii

Dew on the Vine

Review and photos – Steve Gerrard

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