Show Review: Bon Iver at The Fillmore, 9/22/09

by Pouria Yazdi on September 23, 2009

The merch needed its own seat on BART

The merch needed its own seat on BART

What I learned last night: when going to a live Bon Iver show, it’s best to not have any expectations.

What I saw at the Fillmore last night went far beyond anything I imagined.  It’s not that he had some stage act or any gimmicks; the tracks you love will be drastically different, but in an amazing way.

Bon Iver made a point to smash my expectation of a purely acoustic set, into a mixture of sounds and methods.  Distortion, thumping bass, electric-slide guitars, ROCKING, respect-gathering falsettos, crowd participation, and delicate acoustic sets were what he served me up.  I ate it up and was left wanting more.

The haunting, soul-searching sound that draws hipsters in like a fixed-gear bike with brakes is mostly transformed into an internal-organ vibrating experience.

This is a good thing.

Bon Iver came on stage with a 4-piece band, all of whom were multi-instrumentalists.  From my poor viewing area at The Fillmore I could see two drum sets, a keyboard, 8+ guitars, a bass drum, and 6 mics.  Everyone on the stage sang in order to achieve the layered vocal sounds of For Emma, Forever Ago.

All the fan favorites were played.  They started off with an electric version of “Creature Fear.”  I in no way expected to hear rock music, but here I was, listening to a kick-ass version of “Creature Fear.”

With each song that played my appreciation for Bon Iver’s musical aptitude grew.  The first of two covers was actually sung by the guitarist: a man who looked to be only 11 years old but with a voice that reminisced of Freddie Mercury.  Before the first finale, “Wolves (Act I and II),” the crowd was given instructions on when to jump in on the chorus (Standard stage MC-ing).  However, Bon Iver then also gave instructions as to when everyone should just start screaming as “it will feel real good.”  It did.

Bon Iver Set List:
Creature Fear
Lump Sum
Skinny Love
(A cover I didn’t catch the name of)
RE: Stacks
Wolves (Act I and II)

For Emma
Worried Mind (A Megafaun cover with Megafaun)

This isn’t to say the show was without some faults.  Here’s the small list of them, in no specific order:

  • Bon Iver only played 10 songs.  This made for a short show.
  • When “Creature Fear” started, I feared a lame show due to the poor sound coming from the speakers.  This was fixed within moments and the show continued on its awesome path.
  • The finale with Megafaun really killed the energy.  Although Bon Iver really gives them huge props, I wasn’t there to see Megafaun finale.
  • The show made me want to grow my beard again.  Made me feel inadequate for the smooth skin on my face.

Overall the show was amazing.  I left feeling a new found respect for Bon Iver and with an anticipation for all of his future endeavors.

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