On the evening of Wednesday, August 10th, beneath a waxing moon, nine-piece Bon Iver put on a performance for their largest audience to date as one of the major headlining acts of the Celebrate Brooklyn 2011 Concert Series.
Since the main musical focus of this performance was Bon Iver’s recently-released, self-titled album, they couldn’t have come up with a better way to start things off than with Track 1: “Perth.” Guitars set the sweetly somber mood, two sets of drums on either side of the stage built the energy, and Justin Vernon’s vocals soared over the cheering crowd. He would later be joined by saxophones, horns, trumpets, cymbals, tambourines, a violin, a clarinet, and keyboards.
Looking around, it was easy to see that the crowd was very captivated by the music: some were crying, others were especially in love, many were dancing, and a select few were hooting or hollering whenever Justin Vernon would hit some high notes. Indeed, Vernon and the band effectively re-created the songs while adding an experimental, jazzy element to the spaces between many of them. The audience clapped along to the song, “Towers” and chanted together during the song, “The Wolves.” Looking around, there seemed to be less of a focus on recording live songs and more of a focus on feeling them.
Other notable performances that evening included the song, “Creature Fear,” featuring trombonist Reggie Pace; “Beach Baby,” which included a humorous prelude (“…a song about making out with someone that you met on a beach. You never made out with them, but you should have”); “Blood Bank,” a song that bathed that stage in red lighting; “Re:Stacks,” a beautiful solo featuring Justin and his guitar; and, of course, unforgettable new songs like “Calgary” and “Beth/Rest.”
Undoubtedly, there was a spiritual element to the Bon Iver show, and the overflowing attendance at this sold-out performance proved that there is certainly no shortage of love for their music. It was especially meaningful because of how detectably meaningful it was to them, as no unhappy band gives the audience two encores. The first encore featured the song, “Skinny Love” with all musicians (minus the drummers) on backup vocals. This created such a feel-good moment, with near-total audience participation, that it seemed that the show would end following this song. However, they also did “Roslyn,” featuring Mr. Pace again, but this time as beatboxer. The show ended with the song, “For Emma,” from the album that got this band started.
All in all, the performance was ceremonial, haunting, soothing, melancholy, and tear-jerking. Although they never played the song, “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” it was perhaps appropriate to leave each of us waiting for the next time.