I got your setlist right here…

Shortish concert reviews (and setlists, whenever possible)

Bon Iver — 11/6/11, Hamburg, Germany (Docks)

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First chance for me to see Bon Iver on its current tour in support of its self-titled album, having missed out on a chance to catch one of the U.S. dates in September. I haven’t really had too much of a chance to listen to the record, to be completely honest, and the couple of spins I have given it haven’t totally grabbed me. But live, it’s hard to argue that Justin Vernon and his eight bandmates have become quite the powerful unit. Between them, they seemingly have enough wind and brass instruments to hold their own against a symphony orchestra. Add in two drummers, the occasional violin and Vernon’s assortment of synths and effects pedals and this formation of Bon Iver can make just about any variety of sounds.

Vernon and Co. leaned heavily on the new album for the bulk of their set here at the dumpy-looking, but surprisingly good-sounding Reeperbahn club called Docks. It was a more intimate venue than I was expecting, albeit with a rather high stage. But from a few rows back in the middle, the sound — considering the vast array of players and instruments — was as good as could have been expected.

Like I said, I haven’t gotten a tremendous grasp on all of the “new” material yet. Maybe part of it is that several songs blend together in my mind, which is how the show started: “Perth” segued right into “Minnesota, WI” to start, followed immediately by “Holocene” and “Towers.” That’s the exact sequence to start the record as well and it can be a bit tough (at least for me) to distinguish one song from another, though “Holocene” was an early highlight.

As the show went on, some older material began to find its way into the setlist. Yet even with some of these tried-and-true favorites, Vernon seemed somewhat restless. So “Creature Fear” was significantly rearranged, interestingly, and “Skinny Love” featured a seated Vernon playing what looked like dobro with three bandmates around a single microphone on both sides of him singing backing harmonies (“my my my, my my my, my my”) and the two drummers. The perfectly symmetrical lineup onstage gave the song’s line about “I told you to be balanced” a new resonance, in my mind anyway (and I’m sure no one else’s).

Anyway, I could probably go on but I should attempt to get at least a modicum of sleep. Suffice it to say, the show was impressive and I look forward to seeing Vernon and his band continue to evolve. Judging by the great reception they received in Hamburg — and have received virtually everywhere — I’m sure the next time I have a chance to see them perform will come in a significantly bigger venue. That will be the next challenge for Bon Iver, it seems to me — finding a way to make their relatively intimate music resonate with the greater and greater numbers of people discovering it.

Here was the complete setlist, as played:

Minnesota, WI
Creature Fear
Hinnom, TX
Blood Bank
Re: Stacks (Justin solo)
Skinny Love (started and restarted)
Lisbon, OH>
The Wolves (Act I and II)
Who Is It [Bjork]
For Emma

As much of a treat for me was getting to see opening act Kathleen Edwards, who played about 45 minutes of stripped-down folk with backing from longtime collaborators Gord Tough (guitar) and Jim Bryson (keyboard, guitar).

Count me as one eagerly awaiting the release of her next record in January, whether it’s called “Moving To America” (as she joked about) or not.

Here was her setlist, as played:

new song-Sidecar
Six O’Clock News
new song-Change The Sheets
Goodnight, California
12 Bellevue
new song-Moving To America [edit: Empty Threat]
From Hank To Hendrix [Neil Young] (with Mike Noyce and Rob Moose on harmony vocals)


Written by bbop

November 6, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Posted in Music

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