Bon Iver Straddles Indie Folk and Electronic Pop at Moda Center in Portland, OR (SHOW REVIEW)

On Tuesday, September 10th, Bon Iver played to a packed house in Portland’s Moda Center. As opposed to a full arena show Moda Center used “The Theater of The Gods” setup, splitting the arena in half for a more intimate experience. Sharon Van Etten’s opening set deserves a mention as a wonderful way to start the evening, in particular her performance of “Seventeen.”

In the past, Bon Iver were known for melodic and catchy singer-songwriter performances led by their frontman Justin DeYarmond. Their current iteration stands on the line between indie folk and electronic pop. Electronic dance beats meets indie rock ballad, a sound that is very different than what you might expect if you are more familiar with the songs from their 2007 LP For Emma, Forever Ago. A fact demonstrated by Justin performing the old songs solo and then being accompanied by the band for everything else, showing a stark contrast between the old and the new. The new music demands a more powerful band, a heavier sound, and more experimentation with loops and strange electronic sounds. The old stuff just requires Justin singing and playing guitar. 

The light show was incredible. Each band member had their own platform surrounded by angular LED lighting and a lit floor. Double sided mirrors floated above the stage and were used to reflect light patterns throughout  the arena, giving an absurd light show with an almost 3D effect. However, the planting of each band member in their own “booth” prevented much communication and little to no interaction with each other. A very cool lighting display but at the cost of showmanship and real time collaboration.

The show saw many new songs from their latest album, i,i, and several highlights from their older works, including “Skinny Love” and “Holocene.” Both the older material and the new were met with fervor from the fans, even resulting in some church-like reactions. All in all Bon Iver treated Portland to an uplifting performance that was highlighted by nostalgia and some really cool lights.

Photo credit: Graham Tolbert

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