There was a sense of care and a feeling of interconnectedness at Millennium Park…
Did the music separate our souls from our bodies or our bodies from our souls?
Perhaps, it was actually a turbulent marriage of physical and emotional that brought the crowd to a standing ovation — pleading for an encore after a short hour long set.
The audience at the Bon Iver concert was the expected self-labeled as “unlabeled” hipsters. It was a sea of patrons in their mid-twenties sporting all black with one accent of a bleached jean jacket or red bandana tied around their neck.
Translating Electronic Music to the Stage
Bon Iver’s “folktronica” sound instills a level of skepticism, at least for this writer, regarding their ability to perform live. Justin Vernon, lead vocalist, has such a wide range and technologically manipulates his voice to such an extent that it is hard to believe he could replicate such a performance live. Yet, he completely pulled it off. Unlike a lot of performers, Justin Vernon’s voice sounded almost better in concert.
The opener was a band named S. Carey, an Alternative/Indie band that served as a launching point for the main event. Vernon opened with a performance of “Woods” from the album Blood Blank. He live recorded the song on stage, at first recording his voice, then editing it, recording again, and layering it over various vocals. It was so nonchalant that it was difficult to process the fact that he just recreated, almost exactly, his song from an album in real time.
Each aspect of the show was extremely precise, making the experience audibly pleasing but also physically engaging. The lights matched with each song, changing to the beat of the drums. The feeling of listening to a Bon Iver song was heightened in the concert setting. During the song “Perth” from the album Bon Iver, Vernon’s soft vocals dropped to reveal an intensity created through synthetic percussions. An awe settled in the crowd as everyone lost their breath at once and proceeded to search for it in the soft oncoming rise of brass instruments.
Bon Iver performed a short set of only seventeen songs, five of which were from their original album, Bon Iver. The shortness of the set, in this writer’s opinion, allowed for the audience to experience the height of Bon Iver’s musical beauty.
Cultivating Togetherness at Bon Iver
Justin Vernon interrupted the show for a few minutes to discuss the Chicago Foundation for Women, which had a table set up at the concert. He highlighted the organization’s goals of creating community-based solutions for victims of domestic violence. This speech Vernon gave added to a sense of cohesion between the audience and performers — especially because he specifically supported a Chicago foundation.
On top of Vernon’s activism was the emotional depth of the music. Bon Iver’s sound evokes emotion in a way that is unique in comparison to other modern musicians. The lyrics are poetic and often audibly distorted making it difficult to comprehend the meaning. Meanwhile, the instruments and power of Vernon’s voice create a different sensation — being with the music.