By Chris Riemenschneider
What a difference a few months can make. Bon Iver attracted little attention when he performed at the Uptown in October (billed as “Ben” Iver). Last night at the Turf Club, he packed the place, with tickets sold out days in advance and people clamoring to get closer to the stage.
They didn’t go away disappointed. The real-life Justin Vernon basically played his record as-is –the still-unreleased opus “For Emma, Forever Ago,” which you can read about here. Backed by a baritone-guitar player and drummer/co-vocalist, he admirably recreated the album’s haunting, chilly vibe, and he sang a prettymean falsetto, too. About the only misstep was a somewhat clumsy “Skinny Love” (ironically, the song getting the most airplay on the Current). On the other hand, he turned “Wolves Act I and II” into a show highlight, urging the crowd to sing the “What might’ve been lost” refrain while he and his guys cut loose instrumentally. Anotherstandout was “Re: Stacks,”which he performed as an encore, maybe the quietest encore I’ve ever heard.
Vernon proved to be pretty funny and likable, too,like when he gushed about “The Pack” (not sure how many of the scarf-wearing hipsters in attendance knew he meant the Packers, as in football). He already had a complaint about his record label, which is issuing “For Emma” on Feb. 19: “We don’t have any copies of the record to sell because Jagjaguwar wouldn’t let us… I have some burned copies out in my car, though.” Maybe the most enviable thing he pulled Thursday was insisting on going on in the middle slot and letting the Pines still headline. About half the crowd left when he finished.
If you made the show, what’d you think? Is this guy the real deal?