Saturday, 7 October 2017

Bon Iver

28th of September 2017

Edinburgh Playhouse

It was Daughter who had unearthed Bon Iver some years back, specifically the band's (or Justin Vernon's, if you prefer) first two collections For Emma, Forever Ago and Bon Iver, Bon Iver.  Each bristling with beautifully constructed compositions.  As long as one did not find Justin's falsetto too grating, which (whisper it), I occasionally did.

But there was no doubt songs like Holocene, Flume and Towers were mini-masterpieces – even if each appeared to owe at least a minor debt to Neil Young's early Seventies acoustic output.  But that is no bad starting point for anyone.

This short UK Tour, the band's first on these shores for five years, finally forded Daughter to see the recipient of her affections perform live on stage.  And she was one excited bunny.

But the fly in the ointment, the rain on the parade, the turd in the trumpet (I made that last one up), was the new album 22, A Million.  For on this one it appeared Vernon had just discovered technology.  And, as with any late convertee to anything, had embraced all the studio gadgetry with a messianic fervour.

For each track on the collection appeared to have been over-produced almost to death, with potentially fine songs being compelled to act merely as a framework to support a welter of loop effects, samples and jarring edits; before being lumbered with such pretentious sounding titles as 10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄ , ____45_____  and 715 – CR∑∑KS.

Daughter was somewhat ambivalent about the set and was prepared to indulge Justin this time around.  Me, by contrast, feeling someone really should have taken the man aside at some point during recording and Had a Word.  But given most critics had come in their pants upon first listen, and the thing had sold in shitloads (Number 1 in the Scottish album charts!!), plus the fact all the dates on this tour had sold out in attoseconds, what on earth do I know?

Bon Iver - Edinburgh 2017

My pics are ever poorer than usual, as the Camera Polis were out in force this evening.

The show this evening began with a pair of tunes from the new album.  They were harmless enough constructions, even if to my old ears there was very little of real substance going on – other than lots of clever manipulation of hardware.  I did like the sax playing though.

715 – CREEKS was better; even if it was one of those which sounded like a really rather decent song, attempting to wrestle its way from beneath a heavy duvet of vocoder distortion and sampling weirdness.  Creature Fear had Justin strapping on his acoustic guitar for the first time, and we all got an inkling into how enjoyable this gig could have been (had I been in charge ha, ha).

Support act Mikaela Davis was welcomed back on stage midway through to add her harp work to Flume, but in all honesty she may as well not have bothered; given the subtleties of her performance were lost amongst the chaos, as even this most simple of Bon Iver tunes was given a testosterone refuel.

All that being said, I found both of the last two songs in the main set 8 (circle) and The Wolves (Act I and II) really rather wonderful.  And I began to ponder if perhaps to learn to love the current incarnation of Bon Iver, all I required was a touch more exposure.

Throughout the evening Daughter had anxiously waited to hear her fave Skinny Love performed, and was crushed when the house lights came up after a single encore.  I have not had the heart to tell her the song had been played as a second encore the previous night.

Quite why we as an audience were deemed not deserving this time around, I have no idea.  Perhaps Justin had picked up on my grumpy-vibes, and decided some punishment was required.

Bon Iver say Farewell - Skinny Love not pictured.

Set list

22 (OVER SooN)
10 d E A T h b R E a s T
715 – CREEKS
666 ʇ
Creature Fear
29 #Strafford APTS
33 “GOD”
Minnesota, WI
8 (circle)
The Wolves (Act I and II)

00000 Million

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