Friday, March 4, 2016

No. 57 Bon Iver (Live in Singapore)

There are lots of different artists or records that could put a person's life in perspective. You see life pass before your eyes; and songs become reminders of fragmented memories of the highs and lows, the best and the worst, and the random in-betweens. If I had to choose a record that could tell the story of my life, I'd narrow it down to the riveting and euphonic music of Bon Iver.

While my life story pales in comparison and mirrors none of Justin Vernon's--who found refuge in solitude and winter at a remote cabin in Wisconsin after his life came crashing down (his band disbanded, he was recovering from a sickness, he lost all his money in poker), a dramatic premise that birthed the critically acclaimed debut For Emma, Forever Ago--his music transcends, with its subject matter vague and filled with random made-up vocabularies and places.

The self-titled second album, Bon Iver Bon Iver, is a symphonic masterpiece. It's an album that's complete and tells the story of birth, death and the in betweens. And it's no longer a solo project made in the woods. Bon Iver is finally a band
Last 26th of February, I sat inside The Star Theatre in awe of what was happening before me. It was a day I honestly thought would never even happen. Because I remember reading an interview done with one of the Laneway promoters. Someone asked him if he could get Bon Iver to play and he said he's impossible to get. And the fact that his last tour was six years ago, seemed highly unlikely he'll tread the Asian shores. But he did. And I sat there, second row, behind the guy who inspired Vernon to write Re: Stacks.

The show started with Justin Vernon standing on the stage unaccompanied. After a brief moment with what seemed like a small techincal glitch, he then proceeded to introduce his show with Woods from his Blood Bank EP. The track, a reverberating 19-word summary of how the record For Emma was made, ironically sounds nothing like his first record but more like an Imogen Heap track.

The crowd--nearing five thousand in number--was quiet and entranced. But despite the eerily huge venue, Bon Iver's show was exquisitely intimate. It made me feel like I was in a tiny apartment in France just like their memorable La Blogothèque performance. The rest of the band, including the amazing Sean Carey and the bewitching English sister trio the Staves (whose harmonies just blends so well with Vernon's falsetto), joins him for the whole set up until Skinny Love, where he sings it solo on acoustic guitar. And while it made a lot of people tear up, it was The Wolves (Act I and II) from his two-song encore that almost made me lose it.

The fourth track from For Emma builds its intensity with its chaotic drum sequence mimicking explosive firecrackers. It's the reason why there's two drummers. But to me, the song is more than a dramatic song with a powerful crowd appeal played live. It was one of the few songs that helped me whilst I grieved my baby nephew's passing.

He sang all my favourites like Holocene, Perth, Minnesota, WI., Re: Stacks, Blindsided and For Emma, except the captivating folksy number Creature Fear. That and the fact that I wasn't able to get my vinyls signed were my only disappointment that night. Nonetheless, I left the theatre incredibly satisfied.

Photos from Che of Happydiscosadness

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