Bon Iver Has Come a Long Way

August 11th, 2011

Bon Iver – Prospect Park Bandshell – August 10, 2011

Singer-songwriter Justin Vernon famously created Bon Iver’s 2008 debut record, For Emma Forever Ago, in a remote cabin in the Wisconsin woods, and he’s seen his music practically take flight over the past few years, striking a chord with a large and ever-growing number of fans. At last nights’ sold-out show at the Prospect Park Bandshell, Bon Iver performed music that has come a long way from those sparse recordings in the cabin, and the venue proved to be an excellent place for the band to demonstrate its abilities.

With an ample string-and-horn section, the stage was packed for the duration of the set, which included many of Bon Iver’s songs from the recently released self-titled second album. For a group that’s still “relatively new to the world,” as Vernon worded it onstage, fans eagerly welcomed each song, and new ones (especially “Towers,” “Calgary” and the lovely “Holocene”) fit in well with some of the earlier material (“Creature Fear,” “Re: Stacks”). And although much of Bon Iver’s music can be delicate, emotional and restrained, the band took many opportunities to stretch its wings, as with a brash, intense version of “Blood Bank,” the stage lights illuminating everything in a deep red.

Throughout the night, Vernon humbly thanked the crowd for its support and seemed slightly awed at the scale of the show. For the first song of the encore, the frontman sat center stage, his band members huddled together around him, providing backing vocals and coordinated hand claps on a rendition of Bon Iver’s breakout song, “Skinny Love.” Soon enough, those in the audience added their voices, providing Vernon with several thousand more backup singers. The moment perfectly exemplified the massive impact and scope of the band’s music since those lonely days in the cabin: an intimate song adapted for Bon Iver’s current level of success. —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood |