Bon Iver at The Tower Theatre – Philadelphia

Time changes all.

Last Wednesday (August 3, 2011) I attended my second Bon Iver show, when the Wisconsin band appeared at the beautiful Tower Theatre in Upper Darby, PA. It had been almost 3 years since I last saw this band live.

Time changes all. Back in 2008, things were different and I remember leaving the concert with teary eyes, profoundly moved by the performance of the band, alone and deeply touched by the powerful lyrics of that year’s masterpiece “For Emma, Forever Ago”. On Wednesday, the story was different and the intensity of the night was nicely balanced by the company of old friends and above all my wife’s hand, to which I held tight when necessary. Although I still left the concert teary-eyed and deeply moved by the beautiful performance, this time things were different.

Time changes all, and changes are also evident in the band itself. In 2008, Bon Iver appeared live as a 4 piece band, with front-man Justin Vernon still showing remains of his Wisconsin exile and everything around that gloomy story.

On Wednesday, Bon Iver appeared as a large group of musicians (9 total), where multiple percussions shared the stage with guitars, bass, trumpets and saxophones that blended precisely with the still aching voice of Vernon. Evolution and growth of the band is evident, with a nice set of lights that coordinate to the music and to the voice of a clearly thin and in-shape Vernon. By all means, a completely different but still very effective approach.

The set-list combined on an almost methodical manner tunes from their new self titled release, along with old songs from “For Emma, Forever Ago” and a couple from “Blood Bank”. Hard to talk about my favorite tunes of the night, but for sure songs like “Flume”, “Holocene”, “Calgary”, “Creature Fear”, “Re: Stacks” were delivered perfectly. A personal favorite is always the live version of “Blood Bank” played in a hard and intense manner that differs broadly from the recorded version. After 13 songs the band decided to play “For Emma”, a song that says it all and provided a perfect instant for the band to leave the stage, at least for a moment.

The encore was certainly special. It opened with “Beth/Rest”, followed by two beautiful performances from their 2008 album. In “The Wolves (Act I and II)”, the crowd repeatedly cried “…what might have been lost” joining the band to deliver an unforgettable moment. Finally, a cappella version of “Skinny Love” closed the night, starting with Vernon playing the acoustic guitar surrounded by the band clapping along. At the middle, Vernon threw away the guitar, increasing the excitement of the public who decided to join the band and sing along through the end of the song.

The night ended there but the emotion of the performance remained as judged by the evidently touched faces of the crowd leaving the Tower Theatre.

Bon Iver is for sure one of the most relevant bands we have today. Justin Vernon musical genius is more than evident and it is expressed on a perfect manner by the flawless performance of the band. He does it equally well when singing along his acoustic guitar or when 8 plus instruments join the fun.

Bon Iver albums are clearly different and their music depicts a very wide range in which, to the surprise of many, the band fluctuates comfortably. Lyrics are powerful and will definitely make you come back over and over.

Needless to say, we will be watching closely for anything from Vernon or the band in the future.

Below, I leave you a clip of “Skinny Love” from their show in Washington DC, two days before their show in Philly, where they decided to close the night the same way. Also, I leave the set-list of the beautiful night at the Tower Theatre in Philadelphia, plus the link to the Live recording of their recent show on August 2, 2011 broadcasted by NPR.




Bon Iver – Tower Theatre – Aug 3, 2011

1 Perth
2 Minnesota, WI
3 Towers
4 Flume
5 Holocene
6 Beach Baby
7 Blood Bank
8 Hinnom, TX
9 Wash
10 Calgary
11 Creature Fear
12 Re: Stacks
13 Michicant
14 For Emma


15 Beth/Rest
16 The Wolves (Act I and II)
17 Skinny Love

Bon Iver, Recorded Live In Concert - NPR

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