If you're rugged Wisconsin songbird Justin Vernon, alias Bon Iver, you do it by draping your platform in what looks like loose hemp stalactites; by stringing fairy lights like candles; by making the stage resemble a cave. You fill that cave with woodwind, brass and strings. And then you rock. The rustic psalms from Vernon's aforesaid chalet-hewn debut, For Emma, Forever Ago (2008), were occasionally lost in space – Creature Fear felt cool, remote and flat – but they warmed to their capacious surrounds: Skinny Love came on like a rousing choral reprimand, and a stripped-back Re: Stacks, backed by support band The Staves, was a highlight.
Vernon's magically-lit stadium show fared best on the lush falsetto arias that defined last year's follow-up: the philharmonic AM drive-rock of Towers; the beatific yearn-pop of Holocene, whose radiant guitars re-charted Lionel Richie's Stuck On You; and the late-night electro-swoon of Calgary, which echoed Steve Winwood's Valerie in both synth-riff and designate.
If that sounds like a lot of 80s references for a contemporary indie heartbreaker, then credit is due to Vernon's side project, ultra-smooth alt-supergroup Gayngs, whose critically-acclaimed album, Relayted (2010), was rooted in 10cc pop pedagogy. Gayngs served as an AOR rite-of-passage betwixt Bon Iver's stark debut and its lavish successor, as evinced on the SECC's main-set (and second LP) swansong,
Beth/Rest: its over-saxed, synth-crying power balladry was joyous.