Bon Iver skilfully meandered through a set that displayed their unparalleled artistic ability and emotional capacity, even without 'Skinny Love'.
Alternative giants Bon Iver took to London’s Eventim Apollo on 26th February as part of their completely sold out eight night residency, after their last attempt saw them forced to cancel all of their European dates. Famously enigmatic and aloof, the band’s neo-folk, gentile sound was unsurprisingly hugely anticipated and, in expert fashion, Justin Vernon and co. delivered perhaps one of the most moving and artistically adept performances I have yet to witness.
The Apollo stage was draped with knitted white ribbons, a fluorescent amber hue warming the crowd who had waited in the rather fitting bitterness of a frozen London. The stage, clustered with an assembly of instruments, evoked a homely escape from the cold, reimagining the time spent by lead man Justin Vernon in his isolated cabin during the composition of debut album For Emma, Forever Ago. Unassuming in attire with merely a t-shirt and boot-cut jeans, and sporting a pair of headphones for the night, he displayed a talent so pure and so bewildering that it truly would leave you in awe.
In a set compiled from the full Bon Iver discography, from Blood Bank through to 22, A Million, the band were in great form from the offset, showcasing the unparalleled versatility and creativity that they possess. ‘10 d E A T h b R E a s T’ was brought to life with a thumping, unrelenting bass accentuating Vernon’s distinctive falsetto; from hence the crowd were drawn into an inescapable euphoric disposition. With an introduction to ‘Holocene’ that referenced a philosophical theory that the artist behind 22, A Million’s album cover provided, Bon Iver proceeded to produce a performance that was as humbling as anything I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing. The ability to show such pain and emotion with a single human voice is incomprehensible, and Vernon used the Apollo stage to show the crowd the full capacity of the human voice. Constantly reinventing, overlapping, and reshaping his voice through auto-tune and various other tools that I can barely get my head around, Justin Vernon and Bon Iver showed that they are a band that have perfected their art. Similarly, they showed how one can strip back a performance to perfection. Through the rendition of ‘00000 Million’, a song he dedicated to the charity Young Women’s Trust, you could hear a pin drop.
Despite the lack of the band’s most renowned song ‘Skinny Love’, Justin Vernon maintained a captivating spell over the sold out crowd. Finishing with an encore of ‘Woods’ and ‘22 (over s∞∞n)’ it proved that whatever songs the band choose to play, they will put on a performance that will live long in the memory.
Bon Iver’s last show of his residency at the Apollo is on the 5th March.