Review and gallery: Bon Iver

Live from Blackpool Opera House, 25 Oct. Photos: CJGriffiths Photography

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Though Bon Iver’s latest album 22, A Million is brimful of technical trickery, and musically a polar opposite from his 2008 breakthrough album For Emma, his performance at Blackpool Opera House on Monday night proved it can be stripped back to the same intimacy that his debut exuded after being written in the Wisconsin wilderness, in a log cabin, following a break-up.

22, A Million brought more mainstream success for Justin Vernon, AKA Bon Iver but, clearly uncomfortable with the acclaim, the folk singer is performing in venues off the well-worn gig circuit.

Blackpool Opera House, which hosted Vernon and his two multi-instrumentalist colleagues Sean Carey (drums/keys) and Michael Lewis (sax/bass) after a previous gig there was cancelled, provided the perfect backdrop to a spellbinding set in which Vernon demonstrated his chameleon abilities to switch between acoustic folk, experimental electronica and stadium-worthy rock, all accompanied by his rousing soulful vocals.

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A clear highlight was the support act, harpist and singer Mikaela Davis, joining the trio on stage for a memorable rendition of Flume after which Vernon gave a shout out to Lancashire Women’s Centres – one of the many women’s charities he’s supported throughout the European tour and with his 2 A Billion gender equality campaign. Describing the gig as a spiritual gathering that we are fortunate to enjoy because of the freedoms we have, he added: “There’s a lot of people trying to take that freedom away, so get your heads outta your asses.”

A solo rendition of Skinny Love ended the one hour 10 minute set and while it’s Bon Iver’s best known song, Vernon showed no signs of tiring of it in his impassioned performance, which he encouraged the crowd to join in on.

Returning for a two-song encore, the enraptured crowd broke their meditative silence to holler their requests but Vernon opted to end on a cover of the “best song ever written” – a gorgeous rendition of Leon Russell’s A Song For You.

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