Bon Iver Concert Review

A long anticipatory drive sat between me and the Riverside Theatre this time Wednesday (7/20/2011), but after a night out on the town in Chicago with Colleen, we headed up to Milwaukee to meet up with my roommate, Abby, and her long time friend from home, Maddie, as we called a cab and headed into downtown Milwaukee.

The atmosphere as we drove up to the theatre was like no other concert I’ve ever attended. It wasn’t overly loud. People were not stumbling around drunk. The night was warm, with a breeze, as the river sat next to the building to build a beautiful back drop for what would soon be a concert I’ll be hard fought to forget.

No bag were checked. We simply had our tickets scanned, and we walked in. Two bars in the lobby area, to our left and our right. Special item of the evening: tall boy Bon Iver special edition Pabst Blue Ribbon, what else? After all Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett did proclaimed the day as “Bon Iver Day.”

The band was kicking off their 2011 tour. Why not start it in the home state of lead singer Justin Vernon? The Eau Clarie, Wisc. native was greatly with loud cheers. Many “I LOVE YOU” yells. And a standing ovation as the band, including two drummers, three guitarist/violionist, a saxophore/clarinet play, a keyboarder/beat boxer and a trumpet player, assembled along the stage to prepare for a show they has spent months planning.

The halls we walked as we made our way to our seats were scattered with people buying merchandise, catching up, socializing, and anxiously awaiting for the songs to begin.

We took our seats after being led in by flashlight just as the opening act, The Rosebuds, ended their set. We took a few photos, amazed at how smokey the theatre was after the first band had ended, yet how pristine the ceiling and molding created an almost effervescent atmosphere. 

As Justin Vernon’s godfather took the stage to announce and read the ‘Bon Iver Day’ proclamiation the anticpation contiuned to surge up to the upper deck of the theatre.

A slow clap…and then it all began.

The simple, lovely cords of “Perth” began to fill the theatre as the loud drums shook the first two rows. And from then on the lights, the cheers, the standing ovations, the amazing set made for an emotional charged show that the band used as a take off point on their tour.

The last show Bon Iver performed was in the same theatre, and Vernon mentioned that they didn’t really know how to get back in the swing of things so they decided to start back where they left off.

“Happy Bon Iver Day,” Vernon said as everyone jumped out of their seats. And a happy Bon Iver day it was.

Set List:


“Minnesota, WI”




“Blood Bank”

“Hinnom, TX”


“Beach Baby”

“Brackett, WI”


“Re: Stacks”




“Skinny Love”

“Who Is It”

“Wolves (Act I & II)”

Vernon sat alone, strumming the ‘Skinny Love’ specific guitar as the halls were filled with familiar words.

The B’Jork cover “Who is it” allowed for band member Reggie to show off his beat boxing techniques, which served as highly entertaining.

And the last song allowed the entire audience to come together as slowly, and quietly we sang “what might have been lost” and waited for the sign to go crazy. Yes, Vernon specifally saved this moment for last a moment to have everyone become so engrossed in the music we were able to just let it all go

And then it was over.


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