wed 24/07/2024

Bon Iver, All Points East festival review – powerful, poignant and a little bit weird | reviews, news & interviews

Bon Iver, All Points East festival review – powerful, poignant and a little bit weird

Bon Iver, All Points East festival review – powerful, poignant and a little bit weird

Justin Vernon and friends head up the final day of the mammoth London event

Lost in music: Bon Iver's Justin Vernon Tom Hancock

With thousands of people trooping in to see headliners including The Strokes, Bring Me the Horizon, Mumford and Sons and, tonight, Bon Iver, this corner of London’s beautiful Victoria Park has become a bit of a dustbowl – and the dust certainly gets kicked up as the 10-day festival concludes.

A lot of that is down to energetic early main-stagers Kokoko!, a phenomenal, yellow-boiler-suited collective from Kinshasa whose instruments are made of everything from washing-up liquid bottles to tin cans, and an energetic solo set from The Tallest Man on Earth (aka Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson), who lopes and leaps around the stage, beaming as he zips through tracks including the ace "The King of Spain" from 2010’s The Wild Hunt.

From tallest man to best makeup, it’s a seamless transition to the gloriously uncategorisable John Grant. Striding on to the stage with his eyes painted in a glittery blue Gene Simmons-meets-Zorro mask and his arms held aloft, Grant makes it immediately clear that he is here to show us a very good time indeed. Blending Rufus Wainwright-esque vocals and dirty disco grooves, the charismatic Grant marches through a funky, funny and a little foul-mouthed set, battering a cowbell during "Preppy Boy", delivering an earworm to every member of the crowd with "Black Belt" and slinking his way through "He’s Got His Mother’s Hips". It is deliriously fun to watch.

Finally, it’s time for the headliners. Justin Vernon’s live act is impressively adaptable – he seems as at home in the austere cavern of Wembley Arena as in the great outdoors. But there’s something very special about seeing him perform surrounded by trees. A double-bill from 2011's Bon Iver is a strong start – "Perth", followed by "Minnesota, WI" – and it’s instantly and happily apparent, as the thrillingly pounding drums prove, that the poor sound which blighted last week’s Strokes set has been rectified. Thank goodness for that, because there’s a lot of good stuff coming up in Bon Iver’s set – it’s 22, A Million-heavy, but there are older crowd-pleasers including a rapturously received "Skinny Love" and swooning "Blood Bank".

Vernon cuts a brooding, intense figure, but when he finally addresses the crowd he does make a connection – messing up the beginning of "Woods" causes much hilarity as he melodramatically starts again, and he’s touchingly concerned that the ominous skies are about to open. Fortunately they don’t, instead providing an atmospheric backdrop to the dazzling lightshow on stage. Rounding off the set with a majestic "Holocene" is perfect – but then the slightly strange decision is made to debut two new tracks (“Hey Ma” and “U (Man Like)”) over the PA, with the band disappearing. It’s exciting to hear the new material, but it does feel a bit of an anticlimax to suddenly be standing there watching a video on the big screen. Still, it’s intriguing – and certainly a novel way to round off this huge show.

There's something very special about seeing Bon Iver perform surrounded by trees


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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