How do you transpose fragile confessional crafted in a backwoods cabin, into a colossal space with ambience akin to an aircraft hangar?
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.
Loading article content
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.