What’s Left: 37 Days. 33 Bands.
Band #67: Bon Iver
Expectations: Over the past couple of years, Bon Iver has earned a position in my list of favorite artists of all time. That being said, I think it’s fair to say that my expectations were very high. However, I have heard complaints that Justin Vernon’s voice isn’t nearly as great to hear live, so I was interested to see if that was true.
Concert: The second that Justin Vernon and his eight (yes, eight) bandmates stepped onto the stage, I knew I was in for a treat. Bon Iver featured everything from multiple guitar players to a keys player to a traditional drummer to a standing drummer to a baritone sax player, violinists and more. For a music lover, this was a dream come true. If I remember correctly, he opened his set with “Perth,” which is the opener on his new album. Throughout the night, he mostly sang songs from Bon Iver, his new album, but was sure to perform keepers from For Emma, Forever Ago, including “re: Stacks” and closing the entire night with “Skinny Love.” As he tends to do, he performed a cover in the middle of his performance, this time choosing a Bjork song. It’s incredible to see how wonderfully a man can emulate an incredible female singer’s music.
In response to those who say that Justin Vernon doesn’t perform well live and that he only sounds good when he’s looped over and over again using professional studio equipment, I challenge them to go see Bon Iver live. Sure, there are times when it isn’t quite what it sounds like on record, but that’s only human. As a whole, his live set is stunning…breathtaking, even. He hit high notes at times and covered low notes at others. Though I love his falsetto, I must say that I was swept off my feet when “Hinnom” was played and Justin sang the low notes. It was, quite simply, beautiful. Beyond his singing, it’s easy to tell that Justin pours his heart into every song he creates and every performance he gives. Stepping back from the microphone at times to play the guitar with all of his might was just one of the ways that Justin Vernon showed his emotion on stage through his music.
The artfulness of the performance was one of my favorite aspects of the show. Between using one of his bandmates as a beatboxer for the Bjork cover, stepping back and allowing his compatriots on stage to take the spotlight in their solo moments, and sitting down for an acoustic solo performance during his encore, Justin emitted a sense of artistry rather than trying to shine in the limelight. There was a beautiful moment during the closer (“Skinny Love”) when Justin was seated on a stool playing guitar and singing and his bandmates gathered around him, stomping and clapping to the beat. The atmosphere seemed triumphant, as though his friends were gathering around him and cheering him on, which, in contrast to the sad nature of the song, seemed a beautiful marriage.
It was easy to tell that Justin Vernon and his band, Bon Iver, have come a long way. Everything from a completely stunned crowd to the great light show on stage signified success for such a talented musician. It was so great to see Vernon back in Raleigh once again, after leaving here years ago heartbroken and at what may have been rock bottom, yet this time able to prove to the locals that he is truly an influential musician of our time whose name will long color the minds of indie music lovers. Justin Vernon’s euphoric return as Bon Iver brought with it a night that I will not soon forget.
Concert Afterglow: As I tweeted earlier today, it seems fitting to sum up this Bon Iver concert with two words: Aural Sex.
Recommendations: Well shoot, if this review doesn’t convince you that a somewhat pricier ticket is worth your money, I’m not sure you and I are on the same page. I HIGHLY recommend seeing Bon Iver live.
MP3: “Calgary” – Bon Iver
PS: I apologize for the lack of concert photography. I was seated on the lawn in the back of the amphitheater.