And At Once I Knew, I Was Not Magnificent

Last night’s Bon Iver concert at The Pageant, simply put, was magnificent! I now understand that Bon Iver isn’t the Justin Vernon one-man-show, it is a band.  Bon Iver consists of nine ridiculously talented musicians. This was evident in every single song and in every instrument that was played.  From the moment those nine guys walked on stage, they had the uncanny ability to make every song explode into your body – making you feel something beautiful.

What I loved most about this concert was the ability to make each song its own and completely different from the album version. They pushed each song to its limits, creating these new layers I never knew could exist, and they did this all with the utmost taste.  “Creature Fear” was probably the best example from last night. The band rocked it out on this song – creating a cacophony of sounds towards the end which transformed into a jungle of screaming animals, all beautifully controlled.

Justin Vernon was plagued with a technical problem, I believe it was his pedal board, that was addressed about midway through the show. As a guy tried to fix the cables, the band played on and you couldn’t even tell something was wrong or missing. They played “Calgary” then “Blood Bank.” This was the song I was most looking forward to hearing. “Blood Bank” didn’t disappoint. They pulled out he brass instruments and bathed the stage in a sea of red lights, taking the song to a new level.

After “Blood Bank,” the technical problem seemed to be squared away and the band left the stage, leaving Justin alone. He smiled as he asked the audience, “Do any of you have problems?”  “This is for people who have problems.”  It made you wonder if he was talking about the next song, “Re: Stacks” or the problem that just occurred on stage or just a double meaning.  Whatever he was talking about, all problems seemed to disappear as he sung “Re: Stacks.”

I’ve never have heard – or not heard – an audience be so quiet during a show. I think, like me, they were all soaking in the emotional sounds and savoring this experience. This all changed when the band returned for the encore. The encore began with “Beth/Rest.’  This is not my favorite song, but the live version was able to transcend the cheesy 80s sound of the song and also pumped up the crowd’s energy. Next, they played “The Wolves” and got the entire audience echoing the chorus. Then finally, the band played, “Skinny Love,” which was, I’m guessing, the most anticipated song of the evening. The audience erupted in clapping and signing along with the entire song.

As the band left the stage they waved and bowed gratefully. It should have been the audience bowing to them, for they are the ones who gave us the music and this emotional, inspiring experience. Hands down, one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to.

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