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Review: Bon Iver at Murat Theatre

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Bon Iver, The Rosebuds
Murat Theatre at Old National Centre, July 26
4.5 stars

“Oh, hey.” Justin Vernon, bandleader for Wisconsin indie-folk outfit Bon Iver, greeted the Murat crowd as if he had just happened upon them in his living room.

Sometimes it’s energy that makes or breaks a show, and there was definitely something going on between the band and audience Monday night. They were quiet when they were supposed to be, and they clapped and sang along as if it were all choreographed. One of the band’s camera guys even came out to document it — capturing the packed Murat with all hands up, making “J’s” as per Vernon’s request, for their label, Jagjaguwar, out of Bloomington

The music sounded refined, despite a few technical glitches. Vernon’s trademark falsetto sounded as good as it does on the album, starkly contrasting with the deep speaking voice in which he cracked jokes between songs. The band managed to isolate sounds — first silence, then a beat and a bell, each in its proper place.

If anyone was worried that Vernon had lost his Wisconsin roots, he hasn’t. He looked a bit like a pioneer. These guys were clearly seasoned at performing, but they kept things fresh, jumping back and forth between older stuff and songs from the newest album, Bon Iver, released in June. The audience knew it all.

Bon Iver jammed a bit on “Michicant,” which made for a more rocking, danceable version than the original. Same with “Blood Bank,” the full sound of which — two drum kits, horns, strings and synth all working at once — may have taken some by surprise.

“Holocene” cast its trance, but they rallied the crowd’s energy back with an encore that included a Bjork cover and an audience-participation version of “Wolves,” from Bon Iver's debut, For Emma, Forever Ago. This show was beautiful.

By the time Bon Iver had finished their set, it was hard to even remember that there had been an opening band. That’s not to fault The Rosebuds: they earned their keep. Their vocals were muffled, but “Woods” was memorable, and Ivan Howard even managed a rock 'n' roll kick.

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