Bon Iver Triumphs In Night 7 Of Hammersmith Apollo Residency
It was an exhibition of new and old as Bon Iver completed his penultimate show in the epic run...
Ten years on from the release of seminal breakup folk debut For Emma, Forever Ago, Justin Vernon’s sonic reinvention has garnered new fans whilst maintaining his cult following. Indeed, last night (4th March) was the seventh of a sold out eight-night Bon Iver residency at the Hammersmith Apollo.
After a dazzling, haunting set from tonight’s support Phoebe Bridgers, Vernon was eventually accompanied on stage with a ten-piece band, including two drummers and a five-piece horn section.
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With each drummer positioned above the band on raised platforms, it was an instant visual reminder of the prominence of booming percussion on 2016’s 22, A Million. That reminder was quickly brought to life through pounding interludes in early renditions of '10 dEAThbREasT', '666 ʇ' and '33 “God”'. The latter of which concluded with a hugely powerful closing breakdown.
Repeatedly drifting between vocoded newer material and his long-established acoustic melancholy-folk, Vernon yet again exhibited his renowned vocal versatility; equally as mighty as it can be delicate or soft. Whether it be the vocal solos on much-loved 'Blindsided' or the mighty effect-heavy inflections on '715 – CREEKS', those moments multiplied as the set came to a climax.
With other nights pausing for a 20+ minute interval, last night’s performance clearly benefited from an uninterrupted momentum. Closing with 'Holocene', '22 (Over Soon)' and an encore of 'The Wolves (Act I and II)', audience engagement peaked in what was an emotional, communal close to the set.
A decade on from his heart wrenching debut of self-imposed isolation, Vernon’s restless creativity has forced his rapid evolution. But whilst his sound has morphed from intimate to expansive, mournful to experimental, the raw emotion at the core of his musicianship remains as shimmeringly present as ever.
By Joe Horsman