Bon Iver's 2007 single "Skinny Love" was pretty much patient zero for the neo-folk fever that has swept America in the past decade, giving us the Lumineers, Mumford & Sons and a dozen other strummy mainstream acts. Nevertheless, Bon Iver's work has always hinted at some deeper theme; a damaged signal from an alternate timeline where there is literally no difference between a humming guitar string and the insistent click of a Geiger counter. At his show at Broomfield's 1stBank Center on April 11, the artist expanded on his jumbled, fascinating vision.
Bon Iver -- real name Justin Vernon -- opened with "22 (Over Soon)," the opening cut from his baffling, masterful future-pop album 22, A Million. The flash Vernon eschewed in his appearance -- he wore a t-shirt, ball cap and bulky headphones -- appeared on the large video screen behind him. During the first song, an elaborate white sigil slowly drew in, eventually spanning about 30 feet. Obscure symbols and shifting rorschach-like images were the visual centerpiece of the concert, periodically spooling back on one another as if to drive home the point that there was some pattern to all of this -- if the audience could just free their minds and let enlightenment in.
Vernon was backed by no less than six other (visible) musicians, and it was not always clear what each one was doing up there in the dark. That's not a slight -- it unsurprisingly takes an army to create Vernon's wall of sound. The band came together most traditionally on the poppy, semi-religious "666 (upsidedowncross)" but they were most interesting when working dark magic around the edges of Vernon's voice.
And beyond all the wonderful weirdness, that voice remained the star attraction. While Vernon generally layers his best instrument almost beyond recognition on albums, he seemed more inclined to show it off in person. A word of advice: Don't pass up the chance to hear it.
Bon Iver next performs April 13 in Las Vegas. Click here for tickets.