[Bon Iver | Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith 05/03/18]
Watching Bon Iver live was like falling head first into an incredible montage of my happiest and darkest moments.
Indie-folk band Bon Iver came out with their critically acclaimed debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago in 2007. Their EP, Blood Bank – a small chunk of music kept us going until their self-titled album in 2011. All collections of work comprised of songs that dove directly into your soul, grabbed all types of emotional feeling within it and turned them into some sort of a beautiful mess. This trio of profound tracks were then supersceded by an album more experimental and electronic though bore the same volume of heart-stoppingly magical vibes as their previous delicate, low-production sound.
Bon Iver is everything I love about bands…in a band. A magnetic chemistry and the ability to connect with the audience without having to physically connect (no crowdsurfing here folks!).
Justin Vernon’s voice supported by a pacifying arrangements of vocals was unimaginable live prior to this gig – the amount of effects used on their tracks couldn’t possibly be recreated on stage…right? WRONG. Closing my eyes allowed me to hear just how theatrical and overwhelming the sound still was. The audience stood silently for 90% of the gig (the other 10% was an influx of roaring cheers) and even the most subtle sound in songs was easily distinguished to any other sound in the venue.
Their set list covered many songs from their latest album, 22, A Million and it was pretty interesting to see the overwhelming positive response from the younger people in the crowd, whereas us oldies (yeah, I said it) were more enthralled with numbers from Bon Iver and For Emma, Forever Ago. I crumbled and swallowed the lump in my throat when songs like Holocene and Perth were beautifully played but the ULTIMATE finale, and damn Bon Iver for doing this to me, was playing 22 (OVER SOON) as their final song. As I said, their catalogue of music stuck with me and this song pushed me to a climax of tears and “for f***s sake” repeated under my quivering breaths.
It must be a huge challenge for artists who are reknown for creating mellow and solemn pieces to bring energy to their live performances and build a habitat for their audience to embrace, but they did it. They fully did it. And now whenever I think of Bon Iver, I will think of that time I cried at their concert, trying not to spill my beer.