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An almost haunting sense of
wide open space and loneliness

Bon Iver
Pabst Theatre
Milwaukee, WI
Aug. 14, 2008
Bon Iver Bon Iver

Story and photos by Matt Schwenke

Beyond the rapidly growing buzz of interest around Eau Claire-based Justin Vernon's band Bon Iver, there was an underlying sense of accomplishment and homecoming pride at the Pabst Theatre show, by both the local musicians and local music fans, as an intent crowd filled all three floors for the band's first headlining gig at arguably the best venue in Wisconsin.

Nearing the end of a whirlwind summer tour in support of For Emma, Forever Ago, which Vernon penned whilst spending four months of wintry isolation at a cabin in northern Wisconsin, the live versions of the songs still created an almost haunting sense of wide open space and loneliness, but with a little less of the chilling cold found on the album. With a distinct warble and falsetto, Vernon's voice is the lead instrument in the majority of the tunes and most notably in "Skinny Love," in which Vernon shifts from a fragile falsetto to a throaty shout. "Flume" presented some of the most haunting and effects-laden moments of the evening while "For Emma" and "Re: Stacks" were pleasantly bare. The quartet topped the night off standing around a mic at the front of the stage and singing Nashville singer/songwriter Sarah Siskind's "Lovin's For Fools" to Vernon's acoustic guitar.

With vocals that place more importance on tone than enunciation, but without losing direction or becoming meaningless, Bon Iver manages to connect the ethereal sounds of Iceland soundscapers Sigur Ros with the sort of experimental pop found in Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, with Vernon's voice continually reminding the listener the sound is all his own.
Bon Iver Bon Iver
Bon Iver

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