Bon Iver shows growth in Boston

A review of Bon Iver at the House of Blues on August 5, 2011

, Contributing Writer

Bon Iver stopped by the House of Blues on Friday, garnering a pre-show crowd outside Will call that practically rivaled the Sox and Yanks game going on across the street. This might come as a surprise, considering that these days, Bon Iver is a far cry from the folky, legend-making solo-project that broke Eau Claire, Wisconsin’s favorite son, Justin Vernon. This time around, there were no fewer than eight members of a full-fledged band, including a tuba player, trombonist and two drummers on stage. This is not music made in a remote hunting cabin.

“Perth” started things off, which showed the new band in action, a band that can boast a three guitarist line-up and get downright heavy. Bon Iver stuck to material from the new self-titled sophomore release, probably as much out of necessity as a desire to showcase the new songs: this band is ill-suited to bring out the subtleties of “re: Stacks” which is why Vernon brought that one out as a solo highlight later on in the night. The first seven songs went in order of the new album’s tracklist.

For the most part, Bon Iver stayed fairly true to album versions of songs, except for a few notable exceptions: a beautiful horn intro on “Creature Fear”, which gave the song a lounge jazz/chill-out vibe and the dreamy, low-key “Michicant” gained an extended, jazz-inflected coda that ranged and explored far beyond the territory briefly outlined at the end of the album version. Similarly, “Blood Bank” a highlight of their 2009 EP of the same name, became more driving and gained an epic guitar solo and a tacked on noise coda.

Even with all of the emphasis on new material (all but one song was played from Bon Iver, Bon Iver) the crowd stayed with every minute, even to point of giving deep cut “Brackett, WI”, a song only available on the Dark Was the Night charity compilation, a massive cheer. Of course the favorites, like “Skinny Love”, which opened the encore and became an impromptu sing-a-long, got the largest applause from the audience, but there was no lack of excitement about all phases of Bon Iver’s career and all songs in his repertoire. It helped that few moments were less than stellar, although the 80s-quoting “Beth/Rest” was a little too noisy, a rare moment when the size of band overshadowed the underlying melody.

“Wolves (Act I & II)” closed the night, as Justin Vernon told the audience to sing-along to the final refrain of “what might have been lost”, It quickly became into a chorus of shouts and then screams as the band tried to match the volume. It was fitting end, mixing the communal quality of Bon Iver’s early days, with the power and strength of the new band. These days, a Bon Iver show may not be as intimate as it was 3 or 4 years ago, but what might be lost in the warmth, is made up for with the versatility and depth of the new band.

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  1. Pingback: Bon Iver shows growth in Boston | Christopher O'Hare | I Hate Me Too

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