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Concert Review: Bon Iver @ The National

Well, I can cross that one off of the bucket list. You know it’s going to be a good show when you have goosebumps during the three and half hour drive to the concert. Bon Iver has meant so much to me in the development of my musical sense and passion. Finally seeing them was a dream come true. It was only fitting that I returned to see them in my hometown of Richmond at The National.

Watching Bon Iver take the stage as a nine member band (with some serious horns and two drum sets) was quiet the spectacle. The stage was a modest set with about ten light towers that pulsated and flooded the stage with colors of mostly blue and red throughout the show. Immediately upon Justin Vernon taking the stage, you could feel the power of the performer and the crowd was transformed.

bon iver, the national, justin vernon

Bon Iver played from their full arsenal of songs while highlighting the new, self-titled album. Classics from For Emma, Forever Ago were augmented by the full band and the horns were a blazing intensity throughout the night. Re: Stacks was delivered with a deeply personal touch. The entire band exited the stage, leaving just Vernon and his acoustic to lay down a heart wrenching performance to the silent crowd. Blood Bank was a great example of the full band completely enhancing an incredible song. They covered Bjork’s Who Is It, which featured Reggie Pace (RVA! RVA!) killing it with his incredible beat boxing and Colin Stetson taking over on horns. New songs Perth and Holocene showed just how far Bon Iver has come as a band.

The close to this concert (the best show I have ever seen) has changed me. It was a surreal moment that brought together so much of what I was feeling musically. First, the main set was capped by For Emma, which left the crowd in a frenzy calling for the encore (it was damn loud!). The encore did not disappoint. The three song culmination was led off with a rowdy, jammed out performance of Beth/Rest (much better than the album version) and finished with a rousing sing-along of Wolves. Skinny Love sat in the middle and was everything I expected from one of my favorite songs of all time; Veron, his acoustic, and stomp clapping – doesn’t get any better than that.

I cannot remember ever seeing a crowd so utterly transfixed in a state of pure bliss. The sold out theater swayed and sang along through every note. Everyone around me was melting underneath Justin’s voice. Even I have to admit to my moments of eyes closed, head back, fully content with life.

Continue reading for the setlist and links to the live performance at the 9:30 club…

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Bon Iver – Calgary

Bon Iver album art

Bon Iver just released the first track, Calgary, off their highly anticipated, self titled sophomore album. If you’re not up on Bon Iver yet, where the hell have you been? Step 1: Listen to For Emma, Forever Ago. Step 2: Go pre-order Bon Iver here (because I know  you will be hooked immediately). Step 3: Buy tickets to see Bon Iver in Richmond @ The National – July 30 (because I’ll be there and it’s going to be awesome).

Listen: Bon Iver – Calgary 

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