Live Review: Bear’s Den – The Bowery Ballroom, NYC

Bravo, Bear’s Den. For those who have and haven’t seen this dynamic British folk band live, there’s no doubt these guys exceeded everyone’s already high expectations.

American singer/songwriter Gill Landry – who has toured with Bear’s Den and many other folk stars in the Austin to Boston Tour a few years back – kicked the night off with a compelling acoustic performance. He’s a truly seasoned musician who possesses a comfort and wise confidence on stage. It’s obvious that Gill values experiences, good and tough, and sincere human connection, often talking about his life on the road in between songs. From traveling endlessly while living in treehouses and vans, to forming fleeting, yet authentic relationships as a musical nomad, we all can’t help but marvel at what an interesting and full life he has lived. Some highlights included Lawless Soirez, a song Gill wrote while hitchhiking New Mexico in which you can surely hear the southwestern influence, and Just Like You, a friendly song with a country twang.

Soon after, a dramatic musical interlude introduced Bear’s Den (it kind of felt like we were at Disney World awaiting the start of an interactive ride). They begin with Red Earth & Pouring Rain, and the crowd erupts with joy. Andrew Davie, lead vocal, is bright-eyed and smiling constantly, and the music breeds a positive energy and a feeling of kinship throughout the venue. With deep folk roots, Bear’s Den took an alternative rock direction with their latest album, and it sounds damn good live. They often traded in the electric guitar for a banjo for songs like Don’t Let The Sun Steal You Away, Isaac, and Sophie, the crowd singing along with their beautiful harmonies. We also got to witness a few tour traditions: the guitarists’ water bottle flip (according to the crowd’s roar, he did it!), and, being in New York City, a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s The Only Living Boy In New York. The band headed toward the middle of the floor among their audience for a delicate, acoustic version of Gabriel before ending the show with their finale, Agape.

Watching Bear’s Den is a restorative experience, because you get the best of both worlds in listening to their musical evolution. These guys are raw, genuine musicians, with no ego, but a pure love for what they do. As live performers, they are engaging and vocally impeccable. Let’s hope they never stop making music.

Julia Kwan