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Bon Iver

Last night’s gig at the SECC lived up to pre-match expectations.

Front man Justin Vernon is one of rock music’s oddballs. In 2006/7, recovering from a serious illness and break up of his band and relationship, he disappeared into the hills of Wisconsin where his father owns a log cabin. He had musical instruments, some ancient recording equipment, one Shure microphone, a typewriter and a whole lot of time on his hands.

The result was the album For Emma Forever Ago which sounds like (and indeed was) an unfinished demo of some quirky songs with narry a chorus amongst them.

Its brilliance was conveyed to the world through various blogs and it is thought that this posting on ‘My Old Kentucky Blog’ was the catalyst for the worldwide hit (including grammy awards) that the album was to become.

The second album, the eponymous Bon Iver, had a much fuller, more polished edge but retained the quirky, off the wall ambience of the first.

Including Vernon, there were nine on stage last night. Two drummers, various guitars, bass, keyboards, baritone sax, trombone, trumpet, violin and various voices.

The set was of course based on the two albums. I was amazed at the age profile of the audience who were pretty much made up of people in their 20s and 30s. I was aware of being one of the more senior members of the audience by some way.

Who knew that wooly hats resembling tea cosies would become a must have fashion accessory? Despite the heat in the hall, several young folk resolutely kept on their toorie hats.

The stage set was very impressive. I only had my phone by way of a camera but here are a couple of shots I took:


I wondered what it (the stage set) was supposed to symbolise. At times it looked like a cave, others the hanging curtains from some long abandoned house but maybe it was the curious recesses of Vernon’s mind which were on show.

There were many musical highlights including two of my favourite tracks, Flume and Skinny Love, but the version of re:stacks where he invited support act the Staves to come back on and provide harmonies for the song with only a guitar backing, was sublime.

Vernon plans a long break after this tour so it remains to be seen where his musical meanderings will take him and Bon Iver next.

Justin Vernon on the big screen last night

The Guardian (Kitty Empire) has a decent review of the Wembley show, which you can access here

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