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LIVE: Bon Iver with Gordi – Red Hill Auditorium 26 Feb 2023

| 3 March 2023 | Reply

LIVE: Bon Iver with Gordi – Red Hill Auditorium 26 Feb 2023
As part of the Perth Festival 2023
Reviewed by Pete Gardner

Bon Iver are huge, as evidenced by the sell-out crowd in attendance at the Red Hill Auditorium. The Grammy award nominated outfit last played Perth in 2012, and were supposed to have played the arena a couple of years back, but like so many tours at the time, a certain pandemic put paid to that. The fans in attendance tonight have been waiting a long time for their thirst to be slaked with the
spectacle that is Bon Iver in the flesh.

Red Hill auditorium is carved into the side of a hill north of Perth’s Swan Valley, with wide open views across the eastern Perth suburbs and out to the CBD itself. It is also exposed to the elements; I have been here before and been cold! Tonight, however is a hot late summer evening with a cooling breeze taking the edge off the heat as the crowd begin to trickle in filling the venue.

Getting here early, it’s easy to wander down to the barrier, and take pole position for the show. I’m normally at most shows with a camera, but Perth Festival in their wisdom are not handing out photo passes to this one, which allows me to sit back and enjoy a gig for once unencumbered from my kit.
I will be honest, going in I wasn’t sure what to expect from tonight. I’m not too familiar with Bon Iver’s back catalogue, but I know their reputation, and incredible popularity.

On first listen of the latest album, “i,i”, I found the music quite impenetrable. Layered soundscapes, heavy on the effects, my first impression was this is like an art school music project by someone who’s just discovered Ableton. Subsequent listens, however, have shown this to be a grossly unfair assessment as I discovered more depth to the work, like skipping a stone across a pond I bounced off the surface a couple of times before sinking in. I was interested to see how this heavily engineered and processed music translates from the recording to the stage and a live crowd.

As the sun goes down, the auditorium terraces fill, and the T-shirt stands, food trucks and bar do brisk business. People have made a point of arriving early for the show, and the auditorium is over 3/4 full by the time opener Gordi comes on. Gordi is the first big surprise of the night, setting up each song with a series of guitar, voice and synth loops, generated live as accompaniment to her piano and vocals. Gordi has an incredible voice. I’m immediately taken with its haunting warmth, very reminiscent of Hanna Reid of London Grammar in tone. Her use of electronic vocorder like effects only enhancing the vocals.

Officially supplied photo by Cam Campbell

For a couple of numbers however, the technology is given a break, as she performs with just guitar, first dedicating a love song to Sydney World Pride and her partner, and finishing the set with the song Sandwiches, an emotional tribute to her grandmother. At most gigs I’ve seen, the support is give little attention, and often outright rude distain, tonight was very different as the crowed watched and listened in attentive silence, enthusiastically applauding between numbers, paying well deserved respect to the artist.

During the interval as I watched the crew get to work resetting the stage, the air around me becomes somewhat green with herbal haze, and I find myself wondering if I’m going to be legal to drive home.

The stage set up though is incredible, I count at least 12 keyboards, 8 guitars, two full drum kits and a sax, all set on six risers, add to that god knows how many pedals, effects boards, amps, boxes with little red lights and other assorted paraphernalia, the stage is packed. The techs check the drums, tune the guitars and one-two into the microphones, if nothing else this is going to be a spectacle,
and I think a feel a gentle passive high coming on…

The band enter to a huge cheer and applause, each of the six members taking their station upon the risers, with Justin Vernon front and centre. Immediately the sound hits like a crashing wave, the deep complexity of the music coming to life as the band open the set with 666 ʇ

The next hundred minutes are a full-on trip. As I become completely immersed, I find myself trying to pull apart the sound, finding influences weaved through from gospel, dance, folk, and even the bayou, I begin to understand what Bon Iver are about, the hidden depth of the music and why they are so loved, I’m essentially hearing most of these songs for the first time, and let the sound wash over and envelop me.

Officially supplied photo by Tashi Hall

Each member of the group plays multiple instruments, beautifully synchronised, soaring around Vernons falsetto vocals. Mike Lewis breathes through the sax as Vernon solos on the acoustic guitar, Jenn Warner harmonises on backing vocals whilst also sharing guitar and keyboard duties with Andrew Fitzpatrick, this band know their craft, well. With only brief pauses between songs,
Vernon takes swigs from cans of Guinness, lubricating his vocal chords, and thanks the crowd for their dedication and patience.

The lightshow is wonderful, a brilliant compliment to the songs, pillars of light structuring the stage, perfectly timed to the music, whoever the lighting tech is tonight, they are on point. The crowd cheer loudly and sing along as each song is played, especially for the familiar hits of Hey, Ma and The much loved Holocene, but make the biggest noise as Vernon announces, “This one is for y’all” and the band launch into Perth. This is a real highlight of the set, (well, it is our song, isn’t it…) I loved this number for its percussion, heavy on the drums, S. Carey and Matthew McCaughan staring laser
like at each other from opposite corners of the stage as they perfectly duet striking note for note on the dual drum kits.

As the set ends the crowd call for more, and it doesn’t take long for the band to return, generating another wave of applause and cheers as they finish the evening with the classic Skinny Man and RABi. As the band leave the stage for the final time Vernon thanks everyone again and asks them to spread the love, we will have to see if a promise of see you again soon comes to pass.

As the stage lights dim and the bright auditorium lights come on, I take time to decompress, suddenly back to reality from the dreamlike state of the last 2 hours. The crowd typically takes forever to make their way out of the auditorium, bottlenecking at the gates, and the carpark is the usual clusterfuck as every car tries to leave at once, but to be honest I don’t care, it’s good to sit back and take a bit of time out and chill before the drive home.

666 ʇ
Heavenly Father
10 d E A T h b R E a s T
715 – CREEKS
Hey, Ma
U (Man Like)
33 “GOD”
29 #Strafford APTS
Skinny Love

Category: Live Reviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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