Expectations are sometimes a hard thing to live up to. Whether it's buying into the hype from others or just your own high expectations that were set beyond reason. Inevitably your usually left disappointed. Having read a lot of high praise about Bon Iver's live shows and seeing enough live clips myself that have blown me away, I tried to remain guarded against a letdown going in to Bon Iver's show in Brussels the other night.
It didn't take long into the set that i realized I could put my worries aside, because it was clear that Justin and the band could more than deliver the goods. Accompanied by a full band which featured two drummers at times, Bon Iver opened the set with the delicate track "Flume", which then segued straight into "Skinny Love". One of For Emma, Forever Ago's most gut wrenching tracks, the song was everything you've heard or seen it was and more, with added punctuation from the two sets of drums and Vernon's emotional vocals and guitar work. "Creature Fear" got the full on rock treatment, complete with an extended jam at the end, while "Blindsided" saw new electronic flourishes adding to the rich texture of the song. Another track off of For Emma that saw subtle changes different from the album version, was "Lump Sum", which received a new guitar solo and outro from the band. "Re: Stacks" was introduced by a story of how the song is about more than getting drunk, but about who you were before the first time you got drunk and the person you became afterwards. The set also saw Bon Iver preview two new songs, "Blood Bank" which sees a more aggressive electrified sound, and the piano driven "Baby's", which was one of the encore's. Also included in the encore was an uptempo "For Emma", and the closer of the Sarah Siskind cover "Lovin's For Fools", with opening act The Bowerbirds sitting in.
Vernon and Bon Iver's live performances have sort of taken on a legendary status since he started hitting the road supporting For Emma . Perhaps it is all that time Vernon has spent playing the songs live, or maybe the added element of the full band. But Vernon and the songs have taken on a new life and a new depth that not only adds to the legend but meets the expectations and goes beyond.
Blood Bank (new track)
Simple Man (Graham Nash cover)
The Wolves (Act 1&2)
Baby's (new song)
Lovin's For Fools (Sarah Siskind Cover)