Bon Iver recently did a four-night run at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. According to frontman Justin Vernon, the shows were the group’s last in America for a while.
On September 22, the final night, Poliça opened. Although loosely affiliated with Bon Iver (Ryan Olson and singer Channy Leaneagh were in Gayngs with Bon Iver’s Mike Noyce and Vernon. Noyce also appears on two tracks on their debut album), Poliça completely hold their own.
The entire live band, except Leaneagh, was a rhythm section — bassist Chris Bierden and drummers Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson (Olson acted as producer and does not perform with the group). They created the moody textures and rhythms to which Leaneagh supplied melodies. Similarly, Bierden, Ivascu and Christopherson all wore a gray-shirt-and-khaki uniform, while Leaneagh stuck out in a purple dress.
The cavernous Radio City Music Hall was awe-inspiring, but added a bit of a weird dynamic, especially for Poliça. Even though they played a great set, it was hard to engage a crowd in such a huge venue.
Bon Iver had no problem with it, though. Vernon and his massive band filled the stage and just as easily filled the room with their grandiose music. They spent the night intricately recreating the sounds of Bon Iver, Bon Iver and reworking a few songs from For Emma, Forever Ago.
Early in the set, songs like “Perth” and “Holocene” were painstakingly modeled after the album versions. While the recreations of staggering beauty were most welcome, the new arrangements were the most enticing. A new “Creature Fear” with a magnificent trombone solo and bass saxophone parts from Colin Stetson and an electrified “Blood Bank” were not only surprises, but highlights of the show.
The set culminated with an extended version of “Beth/Rest,” the oddball soft rocker that has grown into a fan favorite, followed by two of For Emma‘s most beautiful tracks, “The Wolves (Act I and II)” and “For Emma,” with it’s trademark horn section echoing gently through the room.
Bon Iver may be winding down for the time being, but when they hit the road again in the future, it’s more than likely they’ll be carrying a few new arrangements.