If Bon Iver was feeling any stress after winning not one but two Grammy Awards this year (Best New Artist and Best Alternative Rock Album), the band didn’t show it Saturday night at Coachella.
With a supporting spot underneath headlining giants Radiohead, Bon Iver turned in a chilling performance, with frontman Justin Vernon guiding the masses staring in awe at the Main Stage.
Vernon crafts multi-layered compositions with complex harmonies, so it’s a wonder how he could ever replicate his studio work to a live audience.
But leading a live band that includes Rob Moose on violin and guitar (Antony and the Johnsons, The National) and Mike Lewis on bass (Andrew Bird, Happy Apple), along with a full horn section, Bon Iver passed the test.
Playing behind a gate of turquoise and green (when lit) sconces and under tattered curtains, Bon Iver went through most of the songs off their self-titled Grammy-winner.
“Holocene” drew the most cheers early, as its refrain might be one of Bon Iver’s most touching lines.
“And at once I knew I was not magnificent
Strayed above the highway aisle
Jagged vacant, thick without us
I could see for miles, miles, miles…”
“Blood Bank” from its eponymous 2009 EP was the first real rocker, and that came four songs in.
Later in the show, the beautiful symphony of blips and buzzes that build into a perfect blend with Vernon’s hypnotizing falsetto on “Calgary” was intense.
Bon Iver closed out the set with “The Wolves” from the original band’s first album, 2009′s From Emma, Forever Ago.
Before Vernon began, he asked the crowd to help him sing that song’s final mantra: “What might have been lost!”
There surely was no losing for Bon Iver after this show.