Bon Iver delivered a powerful set at The Mann (photos, review, setlist)

It’s a safe bet that nobody who saw Bon Iver‘s set at The Mann Center for the performing arts last night will again describe the Wisconsin-based new-folk collective as “mellow.” Under the guidance of frontman and songwriter Justin Vernon, the band worked its way through a 16-song, 90-minute set that hit tremendous heights and explored haunting valleys, beginning with the stark solo opener “The Woods.” Originally found on Bon Iver’s 2009 EP Blood Bank, this song’s mystical ebb and flow of auto-tune vocal passages reached broader ears in 2010 when Kanye West interpolated it into the song “Lost in the World” on his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. With Vernon a solitary figure onstage among dim lights, his voice wandered in an architecture of loops and layers reminiscent of Laurie Anderson and Imogen Heap. A beat, a breath, and then the stage erupted into a thundering full-band performance of “Perth” from last year’s Bon Iver, Bon Iver. The set followed a similar pattern: in a vigorous take on “Flume” from 2008′s For Emma, Forever Ago, the nine-piece band created a rich progressive swell of sound from behind rows of beacon lights and under ragged backlit tapestries (the stage set alone was captivating), then later brought the pace down for a stark solo-acoustic rendition of that album’s popular number “Skinny Love.” Guiding the rise-and-fall were curious interludes; Michael Noyce played a jagged, John Cale-style violin solo to transition between “Hinnom, TX” and “Wash,” later saxophonist Colin Stetson answered his bandmate with mix of rhythmic scales and intense staccato bleats. While these elements took the set to its experimental fringes, it reached the other end of the spectrum as well, with a very poppy rendition of “Beth / Rest” closing out the main set, and a jaunty “For Emma” ending the show. But that wasn’t before Vernon entreated the crowd to sing (and scream) along to the epic, post-rock swell of “The Wolves (Act I and II),” while he thrashed away at his guitar, jolted around the stage, fell to the floor, played on his back, bolted upright and generally fought back against any threat of being pigeonholed as a low-key singer-songwriter. Check out a photo recap in the gallery above, and read the setlist below. Continue reading →


One-man band no more: Justin Vernon, from World Cafe, on the growth of Bon Iver (playing The Mann on Sunday)

Immediately, it sounded as though an abrupt change had occurred. In reality, it was something more gradual, more of an evolution.

When its doubly self-titled sophomore record first hit speakers last spring, Bon Iver began to feel less like it was merely the nom-de-stage of a solo singer-songwriter, a conventional guy-with-a-guitar, one Justin Vernon. The acoustic introspection and haunting isolation of its 2008 debut, For Emma, Foever Ago grew into something lush and expansive on Bon Iver, Bon Iver, with emotive playing and majestic arrangements. On the new album, Bon Iver began to feel like a band.

This was, after all, inevitable. As Vernon told WXPN’s David Dye when he was interviewed for World Café last autumn, the first record was borne out of a highly introspective time. “There was a little bit of tail-between-my-legs going on,” he acknowledges of writing it following the end of a romantic relationship and the breakup of his old band, DeYarmond Edison. This element – working on music alone and sad in a cabin in the Wisconsin winter – was possibly overly mythologized, but nonetheless, For Emma was crafted as a collection of very personal songs, and sounds like one.

As soon as Vernon began performing these songs under the guise of Bon Iver, they began to morph. Solo shows grew into two-piece performances with drummer Sean Carey, then further into quartet configuration with guitarist Michael Noyce and bassist Matthew McCaughey, all the way to the nine-piece ensemble that will play The Mann Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday. Continue reading →


Go retro with our “New Edition…Together and solo” playlist (playing the Mann on Sunday)

There’s going to be a lot of nostalgia happening at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday night when the Party in Farmount Park concert lands, showcasing the pop hitmakers of 1986 – New Edition, Salt-n-Pepa and El DeBarge. If, like myself, you were a kid in the mid-80s, this lineup probably has you thinking of roller rink parties and Friday afternoon school bus rides, of having your Walkman cranked and the top ten countdown you taped off the radio bumpin’. We compiled a playlist to get you in the mood for your retro Sunday night concert, and we’re calling “New Edition…Together and solo” featuring hits from these quintessential 80s pop singers, as well as their offshoots – solo work from Booby Brown, Johnny Gill, Ralph Tresvant and the awesome beatmasters of Bell Biv Devoe. Enjoy! The Party in Fairmount Park with New Edition, Salt-n-Pepa and El DeBarge comes to The Mann Center for the Performing Arts, 5201 Parkside Ave., at 6 p.m. on Sun. Aug. 5. Tickets to the all-ages show range from $39.50 to $125.