A venue that holds 12,000 does not seem like the appropriate place for Justin Vernon, a man who’s first album was created in isolation in a snowy cabin in the midst of Wisconsin to play his music.
But Bon Iver has come a long way since the release of For Emma, Forever Ago in 2008, to the grandiose Bon Iver, released last year and it showed througout the course of the evening.
Opener ‘Perth’ started the night in spectacular fashion, making use of fantastic strobe lighting and Wembley Arena’s remarkable acoustics.
The first test of the night came with ‘Holocene,’ and it did not disappoint. It was made grander than the album version with the help of two drummers and a brass section from Justin’s eight piece backing-band. This was followed by one of the highlights of the night, ‘Blood Bank.’
As if making his intimate music suit an arena sized venue wasn’t impressive enough, Justin also managed to keep a sold out crowd of this magnitude silent. He first accomplished this task during a rendition of ‘Beach Baby’ that literally left the crowd speechless.
‘Creature Fear’ also received the full band treatment making for a raucous performance of the previously tender song.
One of the more beautiful moments of the night came with ‘re: stacks,’ for which Justin introduced support band The Staves to the stage. The harmonies of the Watford girl trio complemented the heart-wrenching falsetto of Vernon perfectly.
‘Beth/Rest’ is a song that seems destined to close sets forever. The cheesy, mid 80s sounding melody leaves the crowd in ecstasy. However, the use of a vocoder on Justin’s voice detracts from the overall effect, unfortunately making it seem slightly comical at times.
As far as encores go, this has to be considered up there with the best. ‘Skinny Love,’ rather predictably is met with a cheer unmatched throughout the night. A hugely crowd assisted performance of ‘The Wolves (Act I & II) followed and the show was wrapped up with ‘For Emma.’
Bon Iver managed to achieve what many thought to be impossible. They managed to create an arena sized spectacle from music that sounds more at home in a wooden shack coming from a wind-up radio. After the announcement by Justin Vernon that he intends to ‘walk away’ from Bon Iver, if this is to be a send off, it would take a fool to not appreciate the way with which Justin and co left us. In a state of pure joy, and quite possibly in tears.
Bon Iver Played:
The Wolves (Act I & II)