Indie-folk powerhouse Bon Iver played a rousing set at Deer Lake Park last Friday, with support from English sister trio The Staves. Probably best known to mainstream audiences as a Kanye West collaborator, Bon Iver is taking over the world; the band went from indie darlings to being featured on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy tracks “Monster” and “Lost in the World”, having their latest album debut at number two in the US and number six in Canada, and appearing on shows like SNL. They even recently won Best New Artist (though they technically aren’t new) and Best Alternative Music Album at the 2012 Grammy Awards. Led by the man with the magical voice, Justin Vernon, Bon Iver is quickly establishing themselves as one of the best modern bands in North America.
The band’s recent show at Deer Lake Park proved why the band was worthy of all the praise they receive. Opener The Staves set the tone for the evening perfectly. Consisting of three sisters from Watford, England, the trio’s 40 minute set caught the audience off-guard with their beautiful acoustic folk tracks. The harmonies were really great, and they reminded me a lot of Eisley in that regard (though both bands’ music is quite different). I really love going to a show and discovering great new music, so I was really pleased to have been able to see The Staves on this tour.
After a short break, the crowd went wild as Bon Iver took to the stage. Opening with “Perth”, the nine-piece got off to an incredible start. Having everything from drums and guitars, to horns and trumpets, to violins and trombones, each song was fully-realized and larger than life. The serene and hauntingly beautiful “Holocene” translated beautifully to the live setting, and the catchy “Towers” hooked the crowd from the first note that was played. I was hoping that the band would play “Flume”, as it is one of my favourites off of For Emma, Forever Ago, and I was not disappointed. The one-two punch of “Hinnom, TX” and “Wash.” were welcomed and showcased why the latest album is a fitting follow-up to the more subdued, but incredibly powerful, debut. Perhaps the highlight for me was the phenomenal rendition of “Blood Bank”, with the band playing an extended version that had the crowd going. The energy and urgency of that performance was incredible, and the band was clearly enjoying themselves; thinking back to the performance still gives me chills.
The supporting players left Justin Vernon alone on the stage for a fitting and awe-inspiring acoustic performance of “re: Stacks” before coming back on stage for fan favourite “Skinny Love”. The powerful and assured performance of single “Calgary” gave way for an epic closing to the main set with the ’80s-inspired “Beth/Rest”, which recalls Phil Collins tunes of decades past, saxophone and all. As the band left the stage, the crowd made it clear that they wanted more.
The band re-emerged for an incredible encore, stronger than ever. Starting with a cover of Björk’s “Who Is It”, Vernon dedicated the song to Vancouver band Black Mountain, who Bon Iver opened for on their first tour. Citing Black Mountain member Josh Wells’ love of Iceland’s hottest export as the reason behind choosing the song, the cover was really funky and uptempo compared to most of Bon Iver’s own tracks, and it was a refreshing take on the original. Followed by a crowd sing-along during “The Wolves”, the show closed with a stunning rendition of “For Emma” that certainly left the crowd wanting more. I, for one, eagerly await the band’s return to Vancouver with open arms.
Check out the setlist below and check out a few more videos that I filmed while at the show. The angle from where I was standing isn’t very good, but the sound quality is decent. Did you go as well? Did I make a mistake in the setlist? Sound off below with your thoughts!
Who Is It (Björk cover)
The Wolves (Act I & II)
Featured image source: Portable.tv