Ok, so I admit it, I’m abit of a music-o-holic at the best of times. I’m always sniffing around for new music, new experiences, the next big thing — anything that will slap me around the back of the head and make me sit up and listen in awe. Several months ago, in one of my frustrating ‘why cant i find anything to listen to?’ moods, I stumbled across Bon Iver’s ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’, and it rapidly became part of my constant play rotations. If it isnt a contender for album of the year, I dont know what is!
So when I heard Bon Iver was coming to town, I knew I just had to witness them on stage and take in all that was their live show, however much the ticket hawkers on ebay were charging. I wasn’t disappointed.
They played with a relentless intensity and beauty that reminded me of Mazzy Star, the dynamic control and simplicity of bands like Low or Sigur Ros. I recently read one fan’s post concert thoughts, stating he much prefered Bon Ivers previous ‘intimate’ performances, like he was inferring that now that there’s a bass player, and a guitar rack full of guitars that they’ve some how bought up, and sold out.
I’ve seen this idea floating around a few blogs as well, but I would also argue that this is merely another case of ‘I like your old stuff better than your new stuff’. Which in itself, seems abit of a pointless argument - having recently listened to Justin Vernons REAL old stuff (pre Bon Iver, a band called DeYarmond Edison), and it sounds remarkably like their new track ‘Blood Bank’. So what people are actually fighting against here, is an artists right to grow and change, because they love what they were. Maybe Bon Iver is changing. Maybe they’ll one day find their way back to what that sound was. But expecting an artist to stay in still frame for your own personal pleasure is as pointless as trying to hold onto running water. Things change… Deal with it!
But I digress… For a performance to a packed venue the size of Shepherds Bush Empire, I struggle to believe this could have been any more intimate and personal than it was. Any added bass and drums actually complimented the texture, rather than detracting from it by overcomplicating the sound. More organic, than intrusive.
Most of the beauty in their musical texture, in my opinion, was not even from the instruments, but the voices in all their glory. Justin Vernon was in fine falsetto voice, as was his band, and they seems to effortlessly acheive a level of unity when singing together that you dont often hear in bands, and even more so with 3-4 male voices in unison. Every time they started up a song, the entire audience was silent and hungrily listening. For a band still coming into its own, everyone there seemed to be a staunch fan.
A tip for you punters going to Shepherds Bush Empire - dont get standing room tickets. I’m 6′4″, and from 10 metres out, the most I saw of the players was heads and shoulders, while my poor partner saw nothing. for the whole concert. (dang it)
If you get a chance to see these guys live, I strongly suggest you do. I look forward to seeing them again, and their 2nd album, which I hope, will involve as many instruments as they see fit!
So here are my picks for that night: ‘Flume’, ‘Re: Stacks’, ‘Blood Bank’, and ‘I Believe in You’ (a Talk Talk cover). Enjoy!
Bon Iver - Flume.mp3
Bon Iver - Blood Bank.mp3
Bon Iver - Re Stacks.mp3
Bon Iver - I Believe In You.mp3
flickr photo sets of the night: (including the one above, by mullersflickr)