In his new song "Holocene," Bon Iver sings " . . . and at once I knew I was not magnificent." From the yells and exclamations between songs from the sold out United Palace Theatre on August 9th, I have a feeling that a majority of the 3,293 fans in attendance would beg to differ. From the opening notes of "Perth," the first song on the new album, to "Skinny Love" (kept the fan favorite for the end), the audience was attentitve to the point of silence during the run of songs -- and boisturous with their appreciation in between.
Over the course of the night, Justin Vernon and his supporting eight musicians showed that Bon Iver was a full band, not just a pseudonym for an acoustic guitar-playing woodsman. The nine-piece started things off by playing the first four songs off his new album Bon Iver, Bon Iver in a row. One way to emphasize a new release. With these four songs, they worked to create waves of music to help carry Justin's falsetto. Violins, guitars, keyboards, percussion, a full horn section. All used to layer these wonderfully full sheets of sound. The set really took off with Rob Moose's violin solo in Hinnom, TX, leading to the segue into Wash. This was followed up by the intense Blood Bank (off of the EP of the same name) and then a wonderfully playful Bjork cover, Who Is It. I am not familiar with the origina, but I really like how Justin sang the song ("Who IS it? Never let you down."), accompanied by beat-boxing, violins, and keyboards. (YouTube, from a few days before.) The set closed with a moving For Emma.
I knew we would probably get the 80s-laden Beth/Rest as an encore -- I didn't mind it, although I can't speak for everyone in attendance. I certainly don't think it is a bad thing to be compared to Howard Jones or Phil Collins. Before Wolves began, Justin asked the crowd to sing along with the chorus, and just before ending, scream as loud as you can. The singing was much more successful, with the crowd repeating "What might have been lost . . ." over and over. The screaming quickly turned into applause though. This was followed up by Skinny Love, with Justing playing a beautiful (old?) guitar and the other eight musicians standing behind him, clapping and stomping in unison (a la the Colbert performance).
While I wish I would have had the chance to have seen Justin in a more intimate setting, just him and guitar (well, other than that one time I saw him create a soundtrack for a silent movie), I really enjoyed how the nine musicians on stage were able to create a rich atmosphere of music to accompany Justin's voice. Similar to how Sam Beam approached his last Iron & Wine album, adding horns and extra instrumentation to his sparse music, Justin worked to make his music richer without losing its inherent quality. While Sam's choice seemed to lean a bit more R&B and soul, Justin's has been a natural progression from his earlier, simpler and haunting songs.
Who Is It [Björk]
Wolves (Act I and II)
(Thanks to brooklynvegan for the setlist; here are their photos and review from the show: link.)