There are very few acts who evoke as much emotion as Bon Iver does in a live setting.
While over the years the music that Justin Vernon and his band produce has changed from the acoustic twangs of debut ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ to the electronic whirs of ’22, A Million’, one thing that has remained is their absolute perfection of a live show.
Bon Iver have now announced that that their residency at the Eventim Apollo in London next February will be a huge eight shows long; but if you can’t wait until then, here are 12 videos showing what a breathtaking live act Bon Iver is.
‘Heavenly Father’ a capella with The Staves at Sydney Opera House, 2016
What happened: During the four ‘Cercle.’ shows at the Sydney Opera House, which were performed in the round, Bon Iver were joined on stage by British folk trio The Staves for an a capella performance of ‘Heavenly Father’
What made it so special: The sheer emotion of all the performers.
Most magical moment: The raw power in Justin Vernon’s voice as he yelps the third verse.
‘I Can’t Make You Love Me / Nick of Time’ cover, 2011
What happened: At some point in 2011 Justin Vernon started covering Bonnie Raitt’s ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’, and in this performance he mixing in a bit of another Raitt song with ‘Nick Of Time’.
What made it so special: How stripped back it was – just Justin Vernon and a piano.
Most magical moment: The final refrain of “I found love, darling/Love in the nick of time”.
‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ in Montmartre, 2008
Beginning with an a capella performance complete with a dog running through the beginning of it, Justin then takes the track outside for an acoustic performance in Montmartre for a group of lucky passers by.
What happened: Beginning with an a capella performance inside, Justin Vernon and his band perform ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ in an entrance hall in Montmartre, before wandering the streets singing the same song with their instruments.
What made it so special: How impromptu it was – the music was just for the band, and the lucky passersby they found.
Most magical moment: The spine-tingly bits before the band pick up their assorted instruments.
‘Skinny Love’ on The Colbert Report, 2011
What happened: Bon Iver were invited to perform on The Colbert Report, but instead of going all out with a full band and performing a new track: Justin instead opted for a stripped back version of ‘Skinny Love’.
What made it so special: What an unexpected choice of song it was.
Most magical moment: The final chorus, accompanied by a choir.
‘The Wolves’ at Angel Orensanz Foundation, 2012
What happened: As part of the Vitaminwater Uncapped shows in 2012, Bon Iver put on a killer show at the Angel Orensanz Foundation.
What made it so special: The huge build to the final climax accompanied by a mad light show.
Most magical moment: The instrumental breakdown at the end.
‘Michicant’ at the Sydney Opera House, 2016
What happened: Another stunning offering from the Sydney Opera House as part of the ‘Cercle.’ shows, Bon Iver performed ‘Michicant’ with a full band backing him.
What made it so special: The ghostly instrumental arrangements – in which every line has been thought through.
Most magical moment: The goose-bump-inducing opening, which sees Justin Vernon singing alone with eerie, minimal instrumental backing.
‘Beach Baby’ at MusicNOW, 2010
What happened: Justin Vernon is joined by a string trio for an elegant recital of ‘Beach Baby’ at Cincinnati’s MusicNOW Festival in 2010.
What made it so special: The beautiful venue, which is an acoustical dream.
Most magical moment: When the strings come back in at the end.
Live at the Cork Opera House, 2017
What happened: As part of ‘Sounds From A Safe Harbour’ Bon Iver headlined the Cork Opera House, with majestic show being live streamed.
What made it so special: The entire snow was magnificent – with the special additions of a local choir, and Bon Iver being joined on stage by Fionn Regan and The National’s Dessner brothers.
Most magical moment: The heart-wrenching version of ’33 “God”‘.
’22 (OVER S∞∞N)’ at Rock the Garden, 2017
What happened: Whilst performing at Rock the Garden, Bon Iver captivated the crowd from the first notes of opening song ‘22 (OVER S∞∞N)’.
What made it so special: It’s the perfect example of how well Bon Iver’s third record ‘22, A Million’ translates from album to a live show.
Most magical moment: The glorious saxophone solo.
Live at AIR Studios, 2012
What happened: Accompanied only by band member Sean Carey, Justin Vernon performed a short, duel piano set in the stunning Lyndurst Hall in 2012, a stark contrast to the performances on his live tour at the time, where he was accompanied by an 11-piece band.
What made it so special: The dual piano accompaniment. Whilst piano is neither Sean nor Justin’s favoured instrument, their re-creation of songs using the two instruments is immensely impressive.
Most magical moment: When the vocals in ‘Babys’ come in after an extended introduction.