It’s been seven months since Bon Iver cancelled his tour earlier this year due to poor health. A long wait later and finally the Opera House in Blackpool is full of mostly bearded 30-year-olds in beanies.
The support from Mikaela Davis was a lovely way for us all to settle in to the beautiful old theatre and get used to having to sit down at a gig.
Justin Vernon arrived on stage with two other overly talented multi-instrument-playing members of Bon Iver. They played a balanced range of songs from first album For Emma, Bon Iver and latest release that somewhat divided the fanbase 22, A Million.
Admittedly I was one of those fans who was unsure about the numerology obsessed latest album, until I saw it live. To see the face behind the technology and gadgets that are so heavily used and to hear it performed just as well live as on the record I am thoroughly convinced and relieved to be back to supporting his music.
Mikaela Davis was invited back to the stage for Flume and the addition of her harp made it even more spectacular. The acoustics and sound were incredibly sharp in the aging Opera House, something I think was key to making sure that new technologic sound was maximised and appreciated. Musically Vernon is clearly pushing boundaries here, and he’s come a long way from introspective acoustic folk he was producing in the beginning.
A lot of the songs had additional layers somehow, not just Davis’ feature. There were so many instruments and unlike previous shows the stage was stripped back somehow. The three men stood up on platforms lit from underneath with their respective array of instruments. Michael Lewis was on bass, tenor sax and pedals, Sean Carey on piano, drums, percussion and both accompanied Vernon’s haunting voice on some spine-tingling harmonies as are special to Bon Iver’s sound.
Bon Iver seem to be back and stronger than ever after a wobbly start to the year. ‘This, this is fun!’ Vernon said as he played to the very vocal crowd who couldn’t get enough of him. They sounded exceptional, they engaged with the crowd and it was a stunning venue and show. He was even supporting Lancashire Women’s Centres and called out, ‘If you’re not helping the people who need help, you need to get your head out of your ass.’
They closed the show with a cover of Leon Russell’s A Song For You, Vernon saying it was perhaps the greatest song of all time, reminding us that even though he might be enjoying performing again, his music will always be incredibly personal and classy just like the song.