The new, robust iteration of folk-turned-experimental act Bon Iver played to a sold-out crowd last night at Brooklyn's Prospect Park Bandshell, with an 90-minute set that sprinkled revamped arrangements of older tracks among the heavy-hitting tracks from the band's chart-topping sophomore record "Bon Iver, Bon Iver."
The lineup -- which featured horns, strings, and not one, but two drum kits -- fleshed out and elevated a once-lonely set of songs into a sonic force demanding recognition. Notable overhauls included songs like "Creature Fear" and "Blood Bank;" the latter's new arrangement multiplied its effect to the raucous delight of those in attendance.
Yet while the brainchild of Wisconsin native Justin Vernon proved its successful evolution as a band, its dedication to pushing sonic boundaries resulted, at times, in a loss of efficacy. New songs like the impeccably performed "Holocene" and the crowd-approved slow jam "Beth/Rest" showcased Bon Iver's ability to command a massive venue ("by far our biggest show by ourselves," according to Vernon), but lyrics like "At once I knew/I was not magnificent," flanked by a backdrop of giant fluorescent laser poles, were often lost on a chattering, distracted crowd.
Furthermore, the heart that won over Bon Iver's audience with "For Emma, Forever Ago," was inevitably distilled by the enormity of the crowd that assembled, both within the bandshell grounds and on the picnic blankets beyond. In an attempt to be louder and more impressive, the numbers that once stung, like "Creature Fear," lost some of their delicate pain.
There were, of course, several shining exceptions. Beneath the minor overkill, there was a notable maturity to "The Wolves (Act I and II)." During "Re: Stacks," the thousands gathered fell into near-complete silence. And a well-executed Björk cover ("Who Is It") during the first encore demonstrated, yet again, the band's newfound versatility.
A second-encore performance of "For Emma" concluded the night, taking the song to new (yet equally potent) heights and serving as a declaration of status for Bon Iver: although they've outgrown that backwoods cabin of indie rock legend, they intend to maintain sentimental roots by letting them stretch their legs, in stereo surround.
The band continues on its North American tour throughout September, then heads to Europe.
Bon Iver's Prospect Park Set List:
2. Minnesota, WI
4. Creature Fear
5. Beach Baby
6. Hinnom, TX
8. Blood Bank
10. Re: Stacks
1. Skinny Love
2. Who Is It (Björk cover)
3. The Wolves (Act I and II)
1. For Emma