Bon Iver, Hammersmith Apollo, October 24th, 2011

bon iver, first a guy called justin in a cabin, then a tender-voiced tenor winning over sparsely populated fields and tiny, sardined clubs across the world along with his deep woods debut, then a strange, doped, strangled voice on a kanye record, now a 9-piece band selling out two nights at one of the capital's most storied halls.
overwhelmed we were once at end of the road festival - his mid-afternoon set cracking virgin ears and bursting fresh hearts with a vocal quiver and a strummed guitar, a teary revelation.
now crammed in the oversold theatre, sweating, we greet a famous, world-renowned artiste.
but instead of just doing the old thing but a little bigger, vernon gets it right: there's real ambition, grace and dedication to what goes on here tonight.
two drummers? right, right. but always with purpose and never drowning the precision of brass, bass, sequencer and strings.
'perth' crawls up, loose-limbed and lythe before exploding, off-beats and bursting bombs, an opening grenade landed perfectly. 
no halt, just majestic 'minnesota' into trembling 'towers', a jazz trance saxophone soaked 'blood bank' (civilians get twitchy as the sax solos through an effects pedal for an uncomfortably long time...lucky for them there's a fully stocked bar at the back).
'beach baby' allows a breath, more open and light than the dense, twisted trunks of previous tunes. everything here is so delicate, complex, considered but never loses truth, heart, honesty. rhythmic recorded turns are stretched and tensed, skin-like over humming drums, the upper reaches of vocal and violin trilling soft then searching, scratching hard against solid brass. these tunes, live, are mathematical spirituals, gospel grids - the bold buildings that the record laid out the blueprints for.
an architect alone, mr vernon soars on 're:stacks'..."your love is safe with me" brings some tears and some tapping at the eyes, teeth clenched and eyebrows pointed. it's an elusive  lyric, as we're used to - there's something imperceptible, borderline unintelligible about these harmonious words. you never quite get a hold of them as they skip ghostly around you, pricking your eyeballs, sometimes sprinkling sherbert in the spine.
'wolves' brings the screaming, the singing, the oneness of the night to a high, vaulting peak. encore screams like you'd have in dreams of being a beatle bring the sweet, shy shuffle of 'for emma' and then, lastly, we're at home with justin and the family, a kickdrum, a sung word and a handclap as we celebrate and mourn that 'skinny love' and the things he "told us".
bon iver is a soul band, ever-tightening, ever-expanding - all-inclusive and so elusive. those gorgeous fields of tunes can lay your head to rest and rise in your ears and chest like saplings.
good, true times.