One of the biggest tours rolling across the country this summer is undoubtedly Bon Iver, who hit the Raleigh Amphitheater on Friday night. Frontman Justin Vernon is the stuff of local music legend, and his tourmates The Rosebuds call the Triangle home. Fans stuck it out in the relentless heat to enjoy Friday's concert and were rewarded with an evening of rich, beautiful music.
The sun had almost completely set by the time Vernon and his eight-piece backing band took to the stage. A huge variety of instruments were scattered around the stage: two drum kits, a massive baritone saxophone (among other horns), and guitars of all shapes and sizes. Naturally, the big band meant a big sound for Bon Iver that filled the outdoor venue.
Vernon began the set with "Perth," the opening track to Bon Iver's self-titled new album, and kept fairly quiet through out the set. He occasionally thanked the crowd and briefly explained song meanings — "Towers" is about dormitory life, he said, while "Blood Bank" is "about getting stuck in the snow with someone who you like how they look most of the time" (check out the performance of the latter below).
One of the most upbeat moments of the show came when the band began to perform a cover of Bjork's "Who Is It." Bjork and Bon Iver seem like an odd pairing, but the resulting performance — which included band member Reggie Pace beatboxing — was a treat.
"The Wolves (Act I and II)" was the final song of the main set, and Vernon asked the crowd to sing along to the line, "what might have been lost." He then made a bit of a peculiar request of the crowd to start screaming at a particular point in the song. No singing, "just yelling, only yelling," he said, assuring the audience that the result would be worthwhile. It ended up being a strangely beautiful cacophony, the din of scores of people shouting at the direction of a stranger to tranquil yet intense music. The moment was powerful, to say the least.
Vernon dedicated the first of the encores, "Beth/Rest" to the newborn son of friend and former bandmate Phil Cook. The band concluded with Vernon's best-known tune "Skinny Love." The band ditched their instruments in favor of crowding behind Vernon, adding backing vocals in addition to stomps and claps. Shortly after beginning the song, the cord connecting Vernon's guitar to his amp gave out. With a quick rearrangement of nearby microphones and a dismissive "Fuck that," Vernon restarted the song and brought the night to a placid close.
The Rosebuds' opening set was brief, but the band was clearly excited to be back in their hometown. The band covered material from their newest release, Loud Planes Fly Low, in addition to a few tunes each from Life Like and Night of the Furies. The blistering song "Woods" was a highlight of the set and you can watch a video of the performance below.
The evening's only shortcoming was the venue itself. Even in the sweltering hundred-degree heat, fans' only option for drinking water was the amphitheater's $4 bottles. Admittedly, the Raleigh Amphitheater is a business and needs to make money, but the move seemed a little brutal, especially considering how strictly the venue adhered to the one-sealed-water-bottle policy.
Bon Iver set list
Who is It (Bjork cover)
The Wolves (Act I & II)