Gig Review: Bon Iver, Usher Hall
For those lucky enough to snatch a ticket for the Usher Hall gig, though, it soon becomes clear that there is nothing disappointing about these songs at all. Bon Iver has moved on and grown into a powerful live force, thanks in part to a gang of embarrassingly talented multi-instrumentalists. On stage are two drummers, a one man brass section, two guitarists, violin, percussionist and a vast array of pedals. Vernon himself has transformed a little too, slimming down, trimming the beard and donning a tie, more off duty geography teacher than wild mountain man.
From the opening blast of Perth the audience is enraptured. The band stick with the new material until well into the gig and it becomes obvious that these songs are as good as the first album. The standard of playing on display is impressive, but despite the dense orchestration Vernon's vocal always shines through. Though often hiding behind the falsetto that made his name on the first album, it's when he sings in his natural, deep baritone that you realise that it's not just the songwriting that makes this work - he is an unusually powerful singer.
This gig is a masterclass in light and shade, in tenderness and crescendo, catchy pop hooks combined with avant-garde weirdness. Re:Stacks provides one of the most powerful moments when Justin sits down at the mic alone with his guitar, making me think I would love to hear him sing a small bar...but then when the full band blast in with the encore and try their damnedest to lift the roof off the Usher Hall I'm just happy to be here. Cod emotion-peddlers like Coldplay wish they sounded this epic.
With the final predictable but perfect encore of Skinny Love, I'm struck by the incongruity that such an intimate breakup song should have come to this point, inspiring joyous chanting from a huge crowd. Judging by his easy banter and his beaming face at the end, this is a role which reluctant hero Mr Vernon is getting used to.