Green Man 2009 Live: Bon Iver

Written By:

David Morris

28th August 2009
At 00:11 GMT

1 comment(s)

I knew I had to go see this show. I didn’t overwhelmingly want to but the cynicism that had been welling up in me over the course of two days of non stop musical pleasantries was starting to grate on me, let alone those in my company.

So I thought to myself just go, try not to get violent when people cheer him for scratching his head during the soundcheck, take it easy, try and listen to the words, the observations… when you first heard the record you liked it, at least it had a unique atmosphere… and you did buy it, not that you tell people that now…

Any more of that Mr Monologue and we’ll lock you in a room with that record and see how likeable it is after three hours. Of course if you replace that record with Justin Vernon, it would probably be an enjoyable three hours. Yes, he does seem, gulp, like a good guy: wholesome, unassuming, relaxed… it’s just that he’s a good guy who hasn’t written a good song in almost three years and is still churning out that record and people are still lapping it up like the runt puppies who were cowering in the bomb shelter when the war broke out unexpectedly.

You’re not big and you’re not clever…

Yes, well. It holds water. Ok so there is this imminent side-project/supergroup, whatever it’s called, but apart from that the only half decent song he has written in two and a half years is the title track from the Bloodbank EP which I reviewed but never got published. Probably because of the hack “is Justin Vernon the new Pearl Jam” theme. Maybe it’ll see the light of day sometime!

He must’ve recorded For Emma Forever Ago during the winter of 2006/2007. So to stand in front of all these people and basically just play those songs with slightly different arrangements or noodley intros or make them sound like country or have two drummers playing what one good drummer could do alone etc etc must surely be wearing thin?

Not if you listen to the audience, who wet themselves with appreciation. There might have been one new song, it could have been a cover, either way it wasn’t very exciting. Vernon announced that this would be the last time they played a show in Europe for at least a year, so maybe he knows just how thin the ice is. The thaw is coming to a cabin in Wisconsin, but will the walls stand up without it?

The song Blood Bank was a highlight, the song Babies was awful. As he played Skinny Love I heard 8000 people tick off item sixteen on their things to do before I get as cynical as that dude over there who isn’t even clapping. Look, I tried. I tried to listen to that song independent of the rabid drooling that accompanied it (note: didn’t try to not hate over enthusiastic crowds), but it’s too late. Vernon used that not playing for a year thing to introduce a crowd sing-along on the “what might have been lost” bit of Wolves as if it was a special, but apparently he’s been doing it all over the place. What a pro.

What else happened? He didn’t do anything unexpected, but made it look like he was fucking with the songs without actually altering the hooks one jot. That’s ok and all, I’m just saying. Did he play Blindsided and Flume? I think so, I think they were both pretty good. They totally should have built a giant cabin on stage, and re-created how the album was born but they didn’t. You haven’t heard the story? Where the fuck have you been? Three bona fide Wisemen turn up at this cabin in Bethlehem, Wisconsin and they find...

Ah, bollocks, I put on the record and then I feel bad, that and I ran out of bullshit. It’s alright! It really is. It sounds ok, I can remember how it felt to like it. It sounds way better when there’s no one else around, which makes sense. And I bet he’s got a few more good’uns waiting in the boiler room, let’s hope he enjoys getting them out there, I’ll certainly take a listen. But if he turns up next year trotting out all the highlights of For Emma, Forever Ago it’s going to be awful hard for even the teary eyed ones to swallow.

One thing I do remember is that he sang the first verse to one song in his lower register, and it sounded good, he should do that more often.

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