Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes Comerica Theatre, Phoenix, AZ September 15th 2011
In some gracious twist of Fate, the often-overlooked Phoenix Arizona, was gifted the rare and beautiful chance of having two of Indie music's largest bands taking a pit stop together. With Bon Iver heading west, and Fleet Foxes heading east, the only time to fit Arizona in, was on the same night. So why not give the crowd a once in a lifetime show? Entering the large arena type setting, that is Comerica Theatre, the crowd was already buzzing from the Walkmen who were that night's opener. As unfortunate as it was to miss what was undoubtedly, and reportedly a great show, the reason for the night's outing, Fleet Foxes & Bon Iver, were more than enough to forget, the common tardiness that is associated when trying to make a show. Fighting through the masses to try and find your seat, can take a large portion of your night, unless you’re willing to do a little shoving. As awkward it may be to have assigned seats at a concert, it does feel good knowing that there’s somewhere waiting for you; while taking your seat, you do have the comfort in knowing you can get comfortable with little fear of putting down your jacket or your drink. As the seats were still slowly being filled, the ensemble from Seattle, WA known to most as Fleet Foxes took the stage. They picked up their instruments and seamlessly went into "The Plains/ Bitter Dancer," creating a sound only faintly resembling their album. The sound carried forth from the stage, was much more powerful, and much fuller than the sound which may be familiar off there latest release Helplessness Blues. This was a great surprise to say the least. It's hard to top a great intro, but these Foxes are sly enough to go straight into one of the best known tracks, "Mykonos." With their chants filling the theatre, it was difficult to decipher whether you were at a concert or mass. Fleet Foxes rise to fame has been quick, at least in the big picture that is the music industry, however it isn't underserved, on the contrary; they are powerful musicians that have mastered their sound both on album and live.
The soft arrangements that remind their average listener of what it must have felt like to live through the "free revolution," of the 60s, that embed themselves in their albums is still very much present at their shows, yet its amplified 100 fold with the experience of live performers from varying backgrounds and influences. It was as if they were determined on proving they were so much more than the soft airy sounds, everyone has come to know them as. Because this particular show was a co-headlining set, they were still only the act before the closer, which meant once they stopped, they were definitely done, leaving a moved audience craving more... this unfortunately wasn’t happening despite any chants for an encore.
After what's seemed like an imaginary story, the last 3 years for Bon Iver have been a whirlwind, to say the least. After the critically acclaimed, For Emma Forever Ago, released independently in 2007 and then once more in larger distribution, in February of 2008, Justin Vernon and friends have been on non-stop tour around the world. Somewhere in the middle of all the hype, the Wisconsin group managed to slip off into a recording studio to lay down tracks for their sophomore album, self-titled, Bon Iver. Writing and recording a follow-up album after the debut has done so well, can prove to be a deadly endeavor; to most fans, this is really where the make-it-or-break-it, mentality comes into play.
Opening up with several of their new tracks, Bon Iver quickly showed that they had not missed a step, and were ready to continue delivering a chilling and emotionally impacting performance. If you've never seen a Bon Iver performance, either in person, or even online, then it can be hard to fathom truly how different they are. Often being accompanied by large amount of ambient lights, NOT LASERS, but lights, and using classic effects like smoke and fog machines, they create a ethereal environment that fits the grandeur of their live performances perfectly.
There was a clear and direct statement to the audience that front man Justin Vernon gave everyone in the middle of the performance, addressing the fact that since it is a co-headlining show, they would not be doing an encore, as that wouldn’t be fair to any of the other artists who had already performed. Of course this was something that didn’t sit well with the audience as a whole, especially since the vast majority of the set was focused around new material. Knowing how this would go over with his audience, Justin and gang played even harder and with much more fervor than before, clearly saying: if you’re not going to get an encore, you’ll at least get everything we have; a sentiment that they certainly delivered on and then some. As their set began to draw to a close they began to rest on the laurels of their older material, giving the audience what they had been craving. Not to say Bon Iver's, Bon Iver, isn't a great follow-up, but its definitely more of an album that has to grow on you. Ending the brunt of their set with a rock infused rendition of "The Wolves, (Acts I and II)," the majority of the theatre was on their feet, despite any pleas from the audience around them to sit down in their assigned seats.
What felt like the most intense song performed that night, could really only have one more song to follow it. With the band slowly gathering together on the stage, the lights dim and begin to focus o center stage. Justin moves under the light with only his guitar in hand, and he began to strum the beginnings of the one song everyone present knew Skinny Love. As he began to break into the first verse, the audience in whole was accompanying him, everyone singing along. Through the emotional build-ups and drops, Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes, showed the audience that night the true power behind a perfect performance. From the energy every single person on stage that night delivered, to the combination of all of it at once, this night, an idle Thursday in the middle of September, became a truly magical event. Fleet Foxes
1. The Plains/ Bitter Dancer (Helplessness Blues)
2. Mykonos (Fleet Foxes)
3. Battery Kiinzie (Helplessness Blues)
4. Sim Sala Bim (Helplessness Blues)
5. Your Protector (Fleet Foxes)
6. White Winter Hymnal (Fleet Foxes)
7. Ragged Wood (Fleet Foxes)
8. The Shrine/ An Argument (Helplessness Blues)
9. Blue Spotted Tail (Helplessness Blues)
10. Grown Ocean (Helplessness Blues)
11. Blue ridge Mountain (Fleet Foxes)
12. Helplessness Blues (Helplessness Blues)
Bon Iver Set list:
1. Perth (Bon Iver)
2. Minnesota, WI (Bon Iver)
3. Holocene (Bon Iver)
4. Creature Fear/ Team (For Emma Forever Ago)
5. Hinnom, TX (Bon Iver)Wash (Bon Iver)
6. Lisbon, OH (Bon Iver)
7. Blood Bank (Blood Bank EP)
8. Flume (For Emma Forever Ago)
9. Calgary (Bon Iver)
10. Beth/ Rest (Bon Iver)
11. The Wolves (Act I and II)
12. Skinny Love (For Emma Forever Ago)