Review | Bon Iver at the BOA Pavilion
by Courtney Leigh Allen, is originally from Seattle but now writes, lives and paints in the great city of Boston, Massachusetts.
Bon Iver passed through Boston last Thursday night, playing to a packed crowd at the BOA Pavilion, with Anais Mitchell opening. Making the last of their rounds in support of their 2nd studio album, the guys put on a truly fantastic show playing favorites from both their full-length albums as well as the Blood Bank EP.
It was the third time I’ve seen Bon Iver live, so I kind of knew what to expect, but for those who haven’t seen Bon Iver live before (like my four friends who went with me) it’s hard to describe just how truly amazing this band is live. As we walked through Fort Point to get to the venue, my friends expressed some doubts about whether they would be able to recreate their sound successfully live. I assured them that it would be beyond fantastic. And it was. Seeing the band play live, everything is bigger and better, and louder too. For a band that became popular for a quiet folk album, it’s a bit weird to want to hear every song turned into a bigger and louder production. But it is so worth it.
So many of their songs start out slow and calm and build up in emotion and intensity. But listening on your computer or iPod, the lows and highs of each song all run along the middle. Seeing them live, the songs start slow and steady, as expected. Then all of the sudden, the sound swells and crashes and rushes over you all at once. There’s the frantic drums and loud horns that explode after the chorus on Minnesota, WI. And the dueling drums that kick in on The Wolves (Act I and II) as well as the crashing wave of a emotion that hits you on the last chorus in Holocene.
The other thing you get from seeing the band live, is the realization that Bon Iver is not Justin Vernon. We all know that Bon Iver isn’t Justin Vernon. But it’s easy to forget. Until you see the nine people on stage, every single one of them vital to the band’s sound, from the horns to the string arrangements and drums. The band was on stage for every song minus Re: stacks, which Vernon performed himself, and there were just as many people in the crowd screaming for Reggie Pace and Sean Carey and Mike Noyce as there were for Justin.
Justin thanked the audience multiple times and even apologized for the embarassing number of lame tee-shirts at the merch stand. He also noted that this will be their last North American tour for a long time (for an explanation, see this article chronicling his many upcoming side projects). Crowd favorites like Skinny Love and Holocene drew the most applause, but the guys snuck in a few old favorites too, including Babys and Blood Bank and a haunting performance of Creature Fear with a beautiful trombone intro by Reggie Pace.
If you can catch the guys before they head off to Europe in October, I highly recommend it. Chris from Boston Through My Eyes was also at the show and took some amazing pictures and videos from the front row. Definitely check those out too. And opener Anais Mitchell played a fantastic set as well. The songs she played from her recent album, Young Man in America were breathtaking and her album is worth more than a few listens.