Spreckels Theatre, one of the oldest and most beautiful venues in San Diego, hosted a lovely show on both Friday and Saturday nights this past weekend.
Just shy of its centennial, Spreckels is a show in itself. From its storied past to its ornate and decorated walls the venue demands as much attention as the acts it hosts. Inside the theater, concerts become brilliant displays of musical achievement, thanks to incredible ambience and acoustics.
So when Bon Iver visits San Diego, there really is no more of a perfect place for its precious, intense and radiant music. With some last minute tickets released, the sold out crowd was ready to be immersed by glorious acoustic wonder. The audience members’ expectations were eternally fulfilled.
Support for the night was newcomer Other Lives, which complemented the indie-folk genre theme well. Its melodies were reminiscent of a Romanticism-era tragedy, caused by the subconscious sense of urgency to the group’s tempo and drums. The timeless modern romantic feel is sure to take Other Lives’ rolling thunder-inspired songs into many more albums.
After an unpleasantly crowded intermission in the lobby, Bon Iver front man Justin Vernon appeared on stage alongside an eight-piece accompaniment, rather symphony, and the song “Perth” began. The stage was intimate yet complex, an arrangement ranging from instruments as small as a bicycle bell to a large baritone saxophone. “Perth” started calm and vibrant, and then the distinctive alto voice of Vernon emerged from center stage, resonating throughout every seat in the house.
The opening song, which is also the opening track on Bon Iver’s most recent album, transformed seamlessly into the adjoining track, “Minnesota, WI,” showcasing the poignant intensity that breathes from each song. This intensity is a moving feeling of unrequited heartbreak that Bon Iver has an enchanting ability to weave through its melodies.
As the music was played, time became irrelevant and hard to define while the audience tried to experience every sound performed. With a live band, it is a rare and intriguing accomplishment to blend certain sounds with each other, making them seem simultaneously familiar and foreign. It’s not simply just a guitar or a voice. Everything has a sense of powerful energy and every instrument, down to the wind chime, plays an integral part on stage. It is the resulting air of mystery that goes beyond typical rock bands and allows for the imagination to wander into a song and lose itself for the rest of the show.
The highlight of the night was the surprisingly energetic and loud rendition of “Creature Fear.” The rolling band included a talented trombone solo and continued the ever-present harmonizing collection of vocals and interlaced instruments.
Take note brass instrument players, there are plenty of opportunities to become a rock star. The band featured trumpets, saxophones, trombones and a French horn, which is always refreshing to see on stage alongside the common guitar and drums.
Closing out the night the band featured the songs, “The Wolves (Act I and II)” and “Skinny Love.” “Wolves” captured desires deep inside every person and turned them into a fragile lullaby and an eternal reminder. The song seemed to build power inside of itself as the lyrics continued on, leaving the echoes to chase each other around the ornate theater walls.
Crowd-favorite and widely popular song, “Skinny Love” ended the stunning night. Vernon kept fairly quiet throughout the night when it came to stage chatter with the crowd.
There were more than a few audience catcalls for marriage and love directed his way, though he managed to brush past them. There are not many shows that are better enjoyed quietly seated, this is a well-welcomed exception however. This night at Spreckels will become a cherished memory for both fans of Bon Iver and music fans in general.