terça-feira, outubro 25, 2011

Bon Iver @ The HMV Hammersmith Apollo, London - 24.10.11

When it got to my attention that the American band Bon Iver was coming to London, I tried to gather a group of friends to buy a few tickets, but as always, dealing with a lot of people has it's issues, and so, in the mist of getting a few "yes's or no's", eventually the tickets got sold out and my hopes to see them live vanished like seats at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo.
Fortunately I was able to re-candle this fiery desire of going to the show when I found out that a friend of mine, with already a ticket in her hand, couldn't make it that day...

Yeah... she sold it to me... otherwise I wouldn't be telling this story! If not for this friend, I would probably miss out one of the top gigs in recent years...

My thanks go out to her ("life saver!!")! I owe you big time and this post is in great part dedicated to you, as I did my best to gather nice pictures and videos from that night...

Anyway... The big day had finally come! The much anticipated Bon Iver gig arrived in all it's splendour to London, for the second time in two days!

After getting off work, I rushed immediately to Hammersmith so I could settle in easily into the comfort of the chair that would later on accommodate me for one historical show. But... let's start from the beginning!



I got there way before time, so decided to eat something at the local MacDonalds. While there, stroke conversation with a gentleman who approached me asking if he could share the same table. I curiously asked him if, like me, he was attending the Bon Iver gig. He said that he was going to a play, but showed a lot of interest in the band for which I bought a ticket. This generated a conversation that ended with a comment on his part that helped to make my day. He said: "never would picture myself having a interesting conversation at a MacDonalds!" That certainly meant a lot to me due to the topic of discussion and the way it was raised.

You could tell he was a very well educated man that in those few minutes was able teach and be taught as well, under random circumstances... And as I left towards the venue, couldn't help thinking how that exchange of opinions, that came in such unpredictable conditions, was in fact very enlightening and only came to show how people can benefit from one another, just from the smaller things in life.

But moving forward...

I still had more than enough time... Doors only opened at 19:00h and I showed up a little bit after that. Since I didn't know who the opening act was I thought that I might just give it a try. Had the spare time, but unfortunately not the right frame of mind. As I got to my seat in the stalls and waited for the supporting band, I took a few minutes to gaze around the venue in genuine fascination, dreaming of what was to come!

Three people stepped in, being their leader a girl by the name of Kathleen Edwards. Funny enough... turns out she is Justin Vernon's girlfriend... but anyway...

Not that her music was bad, but I was immensely distracted on the phone, messaging friends and checking emails, while anxiously longing for Bon Iver to take the stage. That's why I said I wasn't in the right frame of mind for the opening act! Instead of just taking the chance of getting to know a new (upcoming) artist, I just wasted that opportunity away. The fact that most of the room wasn't tuned with Miss Edwards helped a bit... but that doesn't serve me as an excuse! Be it as it may, I must confess that "regret" didn't stagger in my mind much time, mostly due to the wonderful performance of the main act, that made everything else seem like irrelevant.


From the get go, Bon Iver "made a lot of promises" to the fully packed Apollo... Promises that were maybe a bit too ambitious for them to keep!

As they entered the stage, I counted 9 musicians! Big surprise... Wasn't aware of that I must say. Two drummers, three horns, guitars and bass... Here and there, some would switch into other percussion instruments or a synthesizer.


Those instruments came to play, giving the audience the first tune of the night... and what a magnificent tune: Perth.

Here was their first statement of the night: "Get ready for a unique and special ride".

To give away such a track right at the beginning, made me wonder what sort of line-up they had in store...

A few tracks later, followed Flume and Holocene. I couldn't believe it! It seemed like they were throwing away all their aces! It was very impressive to think how a band with such a recent repertoire made of only two albums, has so many good tracks capable of bringing the house down!

Both were brilliantly executed, but Flume has a special meaning as it is THE song that introduced me to the band, gripping me after only the first listen. Even thought Vernon's voice and the instruments that go along with him seem like they were taken off the album, their arrangements go beyond what people know, adding a much more eloquent and complex sonority to their musical themes.




Then followed Blood Bank and others more, until we came to three of their master pieces in a row:

Creature Fear, Re-Stacks and Calgary.

Creature Fear was played beautiful as ever, while Re-Stacks was performed in a very intimate one-on-one between Vernon and the crowd.


Calgary was introduced under the sign of being about "when you believe in something really hard, that it actually happens", said Justin Vernon.




Beth/Rest came as the middleman right before one of the highlights of the night...

Vernon approached the audience and asked if they could sing along with him... Well... not actually sing along, but more of a demonstration that showed "we were all together in this one", as he put it.

"What might have been lost" - those were the words that he wanted us to chant in a ever, unifying, growing voice... it was: The Wolves (Act I and II)




With the ending of this song, the packed and pumped up Apollo instantly got up while clapping and cheering enthusiastically in a clear sign of affection, respect, and most of all, in awe to their superb performance that evening! Everyone knew the "encore" was still to come, but that standing ovation was in such an outstanding fashion, like it was certain that it was the last song of the night!

It was after brief (but "chillin" minutes) that they came back for what it seemed like the two obvious songs left to play...


For Emma and their everlasting Skinny Love, in a very nice rendition with most of the band supporting Vernon without their instruments.

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For those of you who haven't seemed them yet (and this goes out especially for my Portuguese friends who I'm assuming didn't had the chance), please make your best efforts to watch them live! It will leave you marks that you will carry throughout your own personal musical portfolio!

(note: I do not own any rights for the pictures and videos uploaded into this post)

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