Bon Iver at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl
There are some gigs that will forever be etched in the minds of the ones lucky enough to experience them: people at Madison Square Garden had Led Zeppelin in 1973, the Royal Albert Hall had Robbie Williams in 2001 (hahaha), and Melbourne now has Bon Iver at the Myer Music Bowl in 2012.
There is a real difficulty in adequately describing Bon Iver at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl without waffling in clichés and sounding like a pretentious dick, but the word ‘magnificent’ seems to be the most appropriate.
It was the first time we’d ever sat down at a gig. It took a little getting used to, but after we got our glass of red, we decided that jumping around and bashing into people simply would not have been appropriate. This was Bon Iver and damn it, it was going to be civilised. Even the photographers were ushered into the pit in an orderly line. Shockingly, we feel it inappropriate to swear here at all.
It definitely had something to do with the magnificent (there’s that word again) setting of the Bowl: it asked for maturity from the diverse crowd.
Australia’s answer to Feist and whimsical songbird Sally Seltmann opened the evening. Her blissful folk melodies wafted through the gardens, and couples could be seen lying on picnic rugs in the gardens surrounding the Bowl, enjoying a bottle of wine as the sun set. Naww.
Emerging somewhat unannounced onto stage, Justin Vernon and his nine-piece ensemble opened their hour-and-a-half long set with ‘Perth’ – a beautifully dramatic composition from their self-titled release from 2011. The perfect ethereal harmonies that you’d come to expect from Bon Iver were amplified with the help of the perfect acoustics of the venue. It simply could not have been better matched.
We were worried that there would be little crowd interaction as there was so much physical space between the stage and the crowd, but Vernon managed to converse so naturally with the crowd of 12,000 – apparently the largest crowd they had ever performed to, “we couldn’t actually believe it,” said Vernon.
Stunning crescendos made sweet, sweet love to our ears; despite the large gap between Vernon and the crowd, he held and caressed us gently and permanently etched goose bumps into our skin. You beautiful man.
After being informed of the curfew, Vernon replied, “apparently there’s a curfew, fuck that shit,” and jumped straight into a beautifully undulating performance of ‘Skinny Love’ with an ecstatic response from the crowd.
To finish, Vernon asked the assistance of the audience to sing the words “what might’ve been lost” to ‘The Wolves (Act I and II)’ from For Emma, Forever Ago. It was extraordinary to hear 12,000 voices behind us singing as loud as they could, but there they were: every single member of the audience singing there little hearts out.
All we can say in conclusion is we were lucky to be apart of the magic; it was absolutely glorious.
* With thanks to super snapper and all round legend Ben Christensen for the photos.