Review: Bon Iver @ Prospect Park

11Aug11

I confess that due to recent apartment hunting, moving, and wedding activities, I have completely been slacking off in the concert department.  When I finally do end up at a concert after a break, I am always reminded of why I like live music and how it just makes everything better. This was definitely the case last night at the Prospect Park band shell.

While I really like Bon Iver and I have had tickets to last night’s show at Prospect Park’s Celebrate Brooklyn concert for a while, I was skeptical about the combination of a huge open air venue and the quiet, contemplative music of Bon Iver. Boy was I in for a surprise.This is what I was expecting:

And this is what we lucky people in the crowd, including myself, got to experience last night (especially the part after the 3 minute mark):

The openers, The Rosebuds, were a fun band from North Carolina. They got the night off to a good start. There was a bit of a wait for Bon Iver to take the stage, which seemed odd because how long does it take four seemingly low-maintenance guys to get ready?  Well, when they finally took the stage, out come not four, but NINE musicians. This included an additional drummer and a brass section. That was when I knew this concert was going to be different.

Since we ended up snagging a coveted spot on the hill in the lawn section, I had a great view of the whole stage. I give the whole production very high points in the lighting department.  There were nine thin vertical lights spread across the stage in the background throughout the performance.  Sometimes they appeared to be audio levels, bouncing up to the crash of the drum beat. At other times they were used as theme lighting (i.e. red lights = “Blood Bank”). At other times the white light seemed to produce a strobe effect and the musicians seemed to momentarily disappear a few at a time, only to quickly reappear.

The whole group of nine were onstage for most of the songs, but lead singer Justin Vernon did take a moment to slow things down with a solo song from his first album, For Emma, Forever Ago.  And you knew “Skinny Love” was going to be played…the question was when? And would they do something crazy with it?  When the band said good night, you knew it was coming in the encore. It ended up being the first song—with Justin Vernon on guitar and many of the other musicians providing the hand-clapping and foot stomping beat. It is not worth describing, because I am sure there are many video recordings of this song online. From the back of the lawn, all I saw was a sea of little lights, held arms-length in the air, capturing the song that made Bon Iver popular.

I have no idea if this big band set-up was special for this tour, or if it will stick around, but last night Bon Iver proved that their songs can certainly demand attention in the vast open air arena, and that they can most definitely headline a big show. I thank them very much for proving me wrong.

The Rosebuds:

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