Bon Iver sounds celebratory, ‘hyperreal’ at YouTube Theater

Bon Iver at the YouTube Theater (Photo by Matthew John Benton)

In this age of uncertainty, there are still a few things to be grateful for: One was Friday night’s celebration of the 10-year anniversary of Bon Iver’s acclaimed self-titled album, an extravagantly staged concert at the new YouTube Theater, with its high-tech L-ISA sound system.

Both the theater, a 6,000-capacity architectural stunner across the plaza from SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, and its acoustics, exemplary of what the makers advertise as “immersive hyperreal sound,” suited Bon Iver’s lush soundscapes well.

“Bon Iver,” released as the follow-up to the 2007 breakout “For Emma, Forever Ago,” has aged like a fine wine. Frontman Justin Vernon was careful to weave in each song of the 10-track album into his setlist. He was joined by Flock of Dimes/Wye Oak frontwoman Jenn Wasner, who added a perfectly harmonized vocal layer, as well as synth and acoustic guitar support. At 9 p.m., the band dove right in to the opening song of “Bon Iver,” “Perth.” Yellow lights flashed into the audience as the song built up, with the pounding duo of drummers commanding the crowd’s undivided attention. “Michicant” and “Holocene,” a couple of the most stunning songs on the album, also held listeners in awe.

The mossy, macrame-inspired hangings on the stage added a homegrown yet eerie element to the space, and picked up the purple, pink and yellow stage lights beautifully. The wand-like spokes on the set of the stage twinkled every so often, and were absolutely enchanting over the deep blue lights. Vernon spoke out to the crowd a couple of times, mostly to acknowledge the challenging times we’re in, or to share how “crying is a good release of bodily functions,” issuing several chuckles.

In addition to performing songs off the celebrated album (a special anniversary edition of which will be released early next year), songs from Bon Iver’s debut, 2016’s “22, A Million” and 2019’s “i,i” were also woven into the evening, including the sparse “715 Creeks” and “45.” New single “PDLIF” (which stands for Please Don’t Live in Fear) also made its performance debut on the 24-song setlist. Crowd favorite “Skinny Love” kicked off the encore with just Vernon on the acoustic guitar and inspired a sing-along in the audience.

Setlist: Perth; Minnesota, WI; Towers; 715 Creeks; Heavenly Father; 666; Hinnom, TX; Wash; PDLIF; U (Man Like); Jelmore; Michicant; 33 GOD; Blood Bank; 45; Stacks; Holocene; Calgary; Lisbon; Beth/Rest. Encore: Skinny Love; Flume; Wolves

Photos by Matthew John Benton