Bon Iver @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

06Aug08

I have been listening to Bon Iver’s album, “For Emma, Forever Ago,” for months now. I had read the story of the album — how it was the result of Justin Vernon’s period of hibernation in a remote area of Wisconsin. After listening to songs like “Skinny Love” and “Flume” I was impressed, and wondered what I, too, could produce if left alone with my creative impulses. I wanted to go into hibernation.

But I didn’t. But I did go to Bon Iver’s sold out show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t even know how many people would be on stage. The album seemed personal, reflective, and solitary. The show turned out to have a little more rock, a little less quiet, and Justin brought a band. Though the four musicians formed a semi-circle onstage, no one member basking in the center spotlight. Vernon, perhaps not fully comfortable with the spotlight, sat with his guitar on on the far right side.

The band remained seated throughout the performance, and at various points of the show, three out of the four band members were playing some sort of percussion instrument. As “Skinny Love,” the most popular song, began audience members started clapping to the beat. Huh? I was surprised and wanted to inform them that “This was not a ho down,” it’s an emotionally intense song. Thankfully, the clapping did die down. Later, thanks for my obsessive listening of the SXSW podcast of a past Bon Iver concert, I was prepared for the “What might have been lost” refrain that Vernon requested the audience sing along with the band. At the end of the show, Vernon made note that it was a special time for them. His appreciation seemed genuine and heartfelt. It’s always fun to watch a performer truly in awe of where they are. A mention of a December Town Hall concert was made–surely a show not to be missed.

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