There aren’t many shows that leave you waiting quite as long as this one. Over two years on from the initial announcement and original date, Bon Iver’s stint at Wembley Arena finally came to be, after multiple run-ins with the UK’s COVID policies. The subsequent date was an added extra, there to appease fans who had been unjustly, and unavoidably, wronged by the constant rescheduling. Anticipation was high, everyone wondering, hoping, that the wait would be worth it.
It was a night full of surprises. Trumpet duo CARM bought out a guest in the form of East London Poet Hussain. His musing flowed powerfully over the ambient backing, despite his constant need to remind everyone that they were at Wembley. When Bon Iver finally took to the stage, excited fans were treated to a heavy rendition of Perth, followed by the juxtaposing Flume. The collective brought out a myriad of hits, as well as a few more obscure numbers, the best being 10 d E A T h b R E a s T, Jelmore, and a brand new acoustic song, with Justin being accompanied by a saxophone. Fans were treated not only to a tight band, but an incredible light show. The neon colours and revolving mirrors above the stage cast heavenly beams and piercing lasers alike, and helped set the mood for some of the quieter numbers.
The biggest one-two punch came with the arrival of Aaron Dessner, Justin Vernon’s collaborator on Big Red Machine. Originally, the band were meant to support Bon Iver, so it was a gentle and well-received nod to what would have been. They played a ‘cover’ of Reese, before the right hook reveal hit the audience; Taylor Swift. It began with Justin Vernon, who lulled the audience into a false sense of security by beginning his joint venture with Taylor Exile. Before anyone could question what was happening, she appeared centre stage to begin her verse. The crowd melted upon seeing her, and even Justin himself seemed shocked. “Goodnight,” he joked to the audience. “Where do we go from there?”
The answer was the worldwide mega hit Skinny Love. It was the perfect song to bring the crowd back down to earth, and reaffirmed that this was a Bon Iver gig. Ending on a double-hitter of Holocene and The Wolves (Act 1 and 2), before returning for 22 (OVER SOON) and RABi, Justin and the gang exceeded expectations. Surprises aside, the perfectly crafted setlist showed off Bon Iver’s evolving sound in a cohesive way, melding fifteen years of music into one flowing entity. Brought to life further by the energetic band, and the incredible lighting, night two at Wembley felt like a once in a lifetime experience. Years of waiting paid off, and then some.
U (Man Like)
10 d E A T h b R E a s T
715 – CREEKS
Reese (Big Red Machine cover, Aaron Dessner)
exile (Taylor Swift cover, with Taylor Swift)
The Wolves (Act 1 and 2)
22 (OVER SOON)
Writer and Musician, Ryan Bulbeck has been published with a number of online publications, and has worked with a myriad of great artists, both as a performer, and as a producer. His most recent band The 295 are still active, playing shows around the UK.