Gig Review: Bon Iver @ Eventim Apolo, London

by will sexton (@willshesleeps)

It’s not often you’ll find a gig review that starts off with the writer in question stressing how nervous he is yet here we are: I was nervous about tonight’s gig. Each to their own but I enjoy looking up setlists before I see bands in order to get super hyped, in addition to stopping myself getting disappointed when one of the deeper cuts I adore no doubt gets left out, inadvertently tainting the night.

So seeing Bon Iver was even more of a Russian roulette: the long-awaited first night they played in London this year (their first English gig since 2012) Bon Iver played their whole new album start to finish in one set, had an interval and then some big hits. The second night was their self-titled second album, an interval and, again, a handful of big hits. Yet nothing was the same order or guaranteed to be played, the only pattern was them going through their discography backwards, (hell they didn’t even play Skinny Love on the first night). So my favourite band of all time could actually not play some of my favourite songs and I could go home heartbroken.

Turns out I had no reason to be worried.

Bon Iver’s gig last night was, to put it simply, an utterly perfect piece of live music that I’ve ever seen. Everyone in the band was on point from start to finish but the gorgeous drumming and brass section definitely deserves to be commended for how impressive they were. Opening with Flume from their debut For Emma, Forever Ago, there was a sudden complete silence to let Justin Vernon fully unfold on stage to the sold-out Apollo theatre. The sound mixing was perfect, his voice soaring above and through the rafters, especially the chorus which went completely through me and I stood in awe and tears. 

Yet, somehow, the gig got even better: Bon Iver decided to play tracks from all their albums and, more importantly, Blood Bank EP, further cementing the point about the alt-rock outfit cycling back through their catalogue. The moment Beach Baby started was when I really transcended, ultimately coming down to the importance the song holds for me and has done for years so seeing that performed as beautifully as it was made it all the better. A speech about love followed it up making it all the more hard-hitting.

Unsuspecting gems came in the forms of the songs __45___, with the most gorgeous saxophone solo, Woods where Vernon really showed off his electronic technical ability with his vocoder and looping and Wolves (Act I and II) with the most epic, goosebumps ending of the whole show. Strobe lights, massive drums hits and raw emotion.

After waiting for 7 years to see my favourite band, I can finally say I’ve seen Bon Iver. The best musical experience. As the gig wound to an end, the band played 22 (OVER SOON), and through my last set of tears, I really felt that yes, the gig was over way too soon.

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Will Sexton

Singer-songwriter with a long love for all things musical!

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