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15th November 2011

Live: Bon Iver @ Apollo

Lingering, delicate and hauntingly beautiful. It can only be Bon Iver.

19th October 2011



Given the tendency, in recent years, for an artist’s worst record to date to coincide with them successfully reaching a wider audience – Kings of Leon, Biffy Clyro and Dizzee Rascal are all culprits – it’s refreshing to see a new album that deservedly brings a band critical and commercial recognition.
Three years on from his last Manchester appearance, a low-key Academy 2 show in support of his debut, For Emma, Forever Ago, Justin Vernon tonight finds himself standing before a long-since-sold-out Apollo, flanked by an eight-piece backing band. Indeed, it’s June’s Bon Iver, Bon Iver that forms the crux of tonight’s set.

Opener ‘Perth’ sets the tone; lingering, delicate and hauntingly beautiful, it epitomises the tone of the new record. ‘Minnesota, WI’ and ‘Towers’ follow, and it’s here that the backing band are able to flex their musical muscles; the chiming guitars, swirling synths and striking percussion all make for a sumptuously-rich sonic template that’s recreated almost perfectly in the live arena. The evening’s biggest cheers, though, are reserved for the airing of material from Vernon’s 2008 debut, with back-to-back renditions of ‘Flume’ and ‘Creature Fear’ delivering a knockout blow; the arrangements may be slightly different now that such a talented array of musicians share the stage, but the sparse, yearning feel remains, to mesmerising effect. The gorgeous glow that set closer ‘Beth/Rest’ bathes the room in – Vernon’s remarkable voice distorted to the degree that it’s almost another instrument – is merely a warm up for a genuinely stunning encore. First, the acoustic guitar comes out for the obligatory performance of ‘Skinny Love’ – a heart-rendingly wistful love song much-imitated, but never rivalled – before the full band returns as a now-fully-standing crowd joins them on backing vocals for a blistering version of ‘The Wolves’ that ends in a maelstrom of noise – it might just be the sound of a band at the very top of their game.

Joe Goggins

Joe Goggins

Music Editor.

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