reCAP :: Bon Iver :: 2016.12.09
There was a moment where it seemed like Bon Iver would be playing their new album 22, A Million in its entirety, having played the first five songs straight in order before breaking out some older stuff. From the looks of the crowd, Justin Vernon – the driving force behind the “band” – could’ve played the entire ABBA catalog and it wouldn’t have mattered. From the start of the very first song “22 (OVER S∞∞N) to the encore ender “The Wolves (Act I and II),” the energy level at The Capitol Theatre on Dec. 9 was at a continual fever pitch. Case in point: Vernon thanked the audience numerous times for their vitality. The audience ate everything up – it was obvious. They sang along, they swayed along, and they – most of all – seemed to lose themselves in the music much like Vernon and his backing band did.
22, A Million has been called Bon Iver’s OK Computer. In other words, it’s been praised for its left-field ambitiousness – specifically its use of drum loops, vocal distortion, reverb, samples, and essentially making instruments out of just about anything. In so many regards this is true. The sound is a detour since the previous record – the Grammy Award-winning self-titled album – but it’s far more accessible on initial listens than Radiohead’s landmark. It’s a trip, but it still has Vernon’s vocals and falsetto driving it. If anything, the song titles – which are all bonkers (ie.29 #Strafford APTS) – gain the most “say wha?” moments on the record. But, who cares what the songs are called. They resonate. Like most Bon Iver songs, the lyrics are second to the entire experience. For example, I find myself singing along to songs that I think the lyrics are when they may, in fact, not even be the actual lyrics. In any event, to see these songs come alive at The Cap was something to behold last week. Notable highlights included standout new track 33 “God” and “715 – CRΣΣKS” and a tandem of older material. His/their version of “Minnesota, WI” off the last record, in particular, was taken to new, almost 22, A Million levels with backing beats and sounds that made it come alive like never before. Similarly, a slow burn of “Creature Fear” off debut album For Emma, Forever Ago was moving.
This may have been my favorite show at The Cap so far. While Bon Iver played just 16 songs, the sound was loud, raw, moving, stirring, and everything in-between. For a moment, all that existed was the performers and the audience. The outside world didn’t exist. The best concerts make you feel so in the moment like that.