Vernon then led the band through “Perth,” “Minnesota, WI,” and “Towers” off his most recent LP. A few of the standouts, for me, were the songs he chose to play from For Emma and Blood Bank. After the opening four songs, each one quite boisterous and much louder than the older Bon Iver sound, Vernon moved on to “Flume.” As the opener to For Emma, “Flume” has held a special place in my heart for the past four years: as relationships swelled and crumbled in my life, I could always find a way to apply the lines “Only love is all maroon” and “Sky is womb and she’s the moon,” both intensely evocative yet vague, to a current yearning, past heartbreak or all future loves at the same time. Though his rendition on Sunday was louder than the cherished album version, it proved to me that he can still find the intimacy that burst into expression in a Michigan cabin years ago. Not only can he locate it, he has found a way to convey it to his ever-growing audience and inside giant arenas like the Mann.
This intimacy, which his wounded falsetto carries in each breath and is and has been Bon Iver’s signature since their conception, was at work on the loudest and quietest songs of the evening. Their rollicking “Blood Bank” was a highlight, and culminated with a lengthy guitar solo in which Vernon soared to heights reminiscent of Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane.” This is a new band, his guitar proclaimed, a band that can achieve intimacy with any of the instruments on the stage: guitar, saxophone, keyboard, trumpet, and, of course, Vernon’s aching voice.
As the sight of my own breath in the air reminds me tonight, winter is coming, and with it comes another season of Bon Iver.
The sight of my own breath in the air reminds me that winter is coming, and with it another season of Bon Iver.