Bon Iver @ Town Hall
Last night Bon Iver made me forget I that I was in New York City. That’s not easy to do at a theater in the middle of Times Square. But the band’s music, at times delicate and at other times momentous, transported me to a musical enclave somewhere in the…do I dare say, the woods. I know, I know, the references to cabins, isolation, and wooded areas have been overdone, but when lead singer Justin Vernon appears onstage in a red and black plaid flannel shirt and looks like he just came in from chopping wood, how can I not think of the rustic cabin life? I felt like I could be sitting in front of a fire, drinking hot chocolate and listening to the music.
But, no, I was in Times Square. The show took place at Town Hall, which always offers a slightly different concert experience due to the rows of assigned seating. Because everyone is seated it makes it more of a listening experience than a social outing. People don’t move much, nor do they talk, and the focus is always on the music. And noticeably absent were people walking by and bumping into me constantly, chatting, and trying to balance drinks as they pass. There was one downside though—I had no way to escape the couple next to me who were talking and making out throughout the show (thankfully they left early).
At various times during the set, the audience was almost completely silent. I think they were lulled into a musical trance. I know that I was. Vernon wondered if there should be elephants coming down the aisles between songs to keep us entertained and awake. Oddly enough, he probably could have recruited some animals from about six blocks away (at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular), but he really didn’t need any elephants.
The band played songs from their album For Emma, Forever Ago, which was released in February. They also offered up some new songs from an upcoming EP called Blood Bank—they played “Blood Bank”, “Beach Baby” and “Babys.” Similar to the band’s set-up at Music Hall of Williamsburg this summer, the instruments were positioned in a semi-circle. While Vernon is clearly the focus of the evening, he keeps himself over on the side, perhaps still hesitant to take center stage. Or maybe he just likes to be different.
Between songs, I found myself laughing at the side comments made by Vernon. At one point he made reference to his band’s relationship with the internet as he acknowledged that Blood Bank was already leaked online. He figures that all the “cool” people would find a way to download it, but he encouraged people to be “not cool” and buy the EP because sometimes it’s cool to be not cool. Later, while coaching the crowd on the lyrics for “The Wolves (Act I and II),” he described at length how it was going to go and how crucial it was for us to get it right. He warned that it was our responsibility to make it work because if the posts on Brooklyn Vegan tomorrow described the show as crappy, it would all be our fault. I think the crowd did just fine, but check out Brooklyn Vegan for more comments.
Vernon plays the gracious and humble man, but seriously, with three sold out NYC shows in a row, I’m afraid he’ll have to shed the “lil’ o’ me” attitude. People like you, man. You’ve made it. Believe it. It’s happening. I think he’s still trying to process everything that has happened to the band since releasing the album. He did express nervousness and excitement about playing in a place such as Town Hall. Seems he had feared that something would go terribly wrong. Right now he’s two for three. They have one more show tonight at Music Hall of WIlliamsburg. Last night, the band had the crowd on it’s feet twice, so I think that’s a pretty good indication that everything went just fine.
It was a busy day for the band since they performed “Skinny Love” on Letterman earlier in the day. Here’s the video:
And here are a few pictures from Town Hall. Most are from the 12/10 show, courtesy of Elayna, so you will not see the plaid flannel shirt (I just don’t want you to think this guy does wardrobe changes).
The opening musician was The Tallest Man on Earth, aka Kristian Matsson. He’s a really good guitar player and very animated and entertaining. I would never have guessed this guy as from Sweden since there is not even a hint of an accent when he sings. In today’s installment of “Bands, They’re just like us!”, I must mention that two members of Elvis Perkins in Dearland were spotted in the audience. I wasn’t sure how I recognized them, since I only saw them perform one time. But I was able to confirm it since they looked exactly the same as they do in this picture (vest, scarf, and all).
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Tags: bon iver, brooklynvegan, elvis perkins in dearland, tallest man on earth, town hall