Thursday, November 10, 2011

There's a fire going out

Bon Iver - HMV Hammersmith Apollo - 24th October 2011

I took my time getting into Bon Iver and wasn't keen enough to go to the effort of seeing them tour For Emma. Then the Blood Bank E.P. was released and I was sold. When I was emailed the presale details for a show taking place on my birthday, I ignored my empty bank balance and bought two tickets. Not that I knew who was going to come with me. I don't mind going to concerts on my own, but going solo on your birthday is just a little sad. Thankfully the boyfriend contract includes certain obligations and I dragged J out to the Hammersmith Apollo to see a band that he'd basically never heard of.

I think of For Emma as such a quiet album. Almost just a guy and a guitar. I know that there's plenty more to hear on it, but that's how it's reduced in my head. The second album isn't quite as low-key. The band's sound has changed dramatically, and the stage show has not just changed to match, it's overtaken the recordings in terms of density and scale. Bon Iver are touring with about 9 musicians, including a horn section. Bon Iver fans really really fucking love Bon Iver. Cue trumpets entering at the perfect time, two percussionists, multiple vocalists, it all combined to turn the material (particularly the new album) into something epic that was visibly moving the audience. The light show was significant and certainly added to certain songs, but I couldn't help but think that some of the flashing must have made things difficult for the musicians.
Flume is made better with horns entering at just the right time. The current live version of Blood Bank is super rocky. Beth/Rest is great, but just a little too eighties for me to be fully on board. Predictably the encore consisted of For Emma and Skinny Love performed with just with Justin on guitar and vocals, and very quiet choir back up from the rest of the band. Fan dedication extended to this conclusion. The pauses during Skinny Love were the quietest I have even seen/heard a room with that amount of people in it.

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