Bon Iver, MoPop Festival 2018
Detroit, MI – “We’ve never played Detroit proper, which is f------ stupid.”
This was Bon Iver’s first performance remotely close to the area since 2008, when he played at the Crofoot Ballroom in support of just-released For Emma, Forever Ago. A decade seems like forever ago now. At the time, Crofoot said this about Justin Vernon, the man behind the Bon Iver machine: “(He) seems to have tested his boundaries to the utmost, and in doing so has managed to break free from any pre-cursing or finished forms.” He’s been testing them ever since. And for those lucky enough to have attended MoPop Festival 2018 (me!), we were in for a spiritual awakening.
Vernon yearned through a too-short, 90-minute set of old and new (but no "Skinny Love" – more on that to come). He didn’t take up much room in center stage, but his falsetto stretched across all 20 acres of West Riverfront Park. (I think. I don’t know, I was fangirling somewhere toward the front.) The hypnosis was slow, but steady – starting with “10 d E A T h b R E a s T” and “715 - CREEKS” from 2016’s 22, A Million; building with “Michicant” and “Perth” from 2012’s Bon Iver, Bon Iver; and peaking with Vernon enlisting us all to loop the phrase, “What might have been lost” during “Wolves”.
I realized after that I’d had my hands in some sort of prayer pose.
This was my second time seeing Bon Iver – the first was Bonnaroo 2012. They were both ferociously spiritual experiences for me, but there was something particularly poignant about MoPop Festival. Maybe it was the Detroit River drenched in moonlight, or the soft neon glow of the Caesars Windsor (an arguably spiritual sight for some people). But still, maybe, it was the Wisconsin native pleading with us all to “be nice to each other” from the perch of his piano during “00000 Million”.
The only lowlight of the show came as the stage went dark, when voices echoed through the crowd pleading, “Wait, no ‘Skinny Love’?” Maybe they thought it was 2008 at the Crofoot. Or maybe they were there for one of the other 21 pretty rad acts that weekend. To be expected at a festival.
But, Justin Vernon, if you’re reading this: thanks for not playing that f------ song.
Bon Iver Setlist, MoPop Festival 2018:
10 d E A T h b R E a s T
715 - CREEKS
29 #Strafford APTS
The Wolves (Act I and II)