In the second feature of Saturday Night Live’s musical guests review, we have indie folk titan, Bon Iver. The guy (band?) is king of the music snob universe these days, winning the coveted (although insultingly biased and slanted) number one album of the year from Pitchfork and recently told the Grammys “‘fuck you’ a little bit.” He also has the easiest musical gig of all time by following up Lana Del Rey’s zombie croon that literally blew up the blogosphere. Remember that magician who followed The Beatles on Ed Sullivan? This is the opposite of that. Without further ado…
So they deliver with the one that everyone knows they’re going to play. For the record, there are two peculiar things about Bon Iver to me. One, that their name is actually pronounced in the French vernacular “bon ih vare.” I learned this some time ago, as did everyone else I know, yet we all still say Bahn I-ver. It’s like the name is just too pretentious to say aloud. I feel like the bad should acknowledge this and change their name accordingly. Second, I always pictured Bon Iver as just being the stage name of Justin Vernon. I know there are other people in the band, but I just figured it was an Iron & Wine sort of thing. You can imagine my brief surprise when there were like ten people onstage (including the big black guy rocking the chimes). Nonetheless, they seriously nailed this song. This ranks among one of the best SNL performances I have ever seen. They have a tendency to either mute the vocals or the instruments a little too much, but this time they finally found the perfect balance. They seemed to add a little juice to it in terms of percussion and just in general with oomph. It ended up creating a version that I liked better than the one on the album. Now that’s saying something.
Definitely not the choice I was expecting for their second song. The fact that this one even came as the ultimate track on award winning album was a bit of a shock to me. You just don’t often go into a progressive folk album expecting a slow synth-based 80s love song. Is that just me? Alas, we finally have a bit of a slip up on this song. Vernon was spectacular on “Holocene” with his high-pitched and emotional bellowing, but this one just required a different dynamic. He seemed a little bit off-key and completely bombed a couple of notes. At times, he just kind of talk-singed his way through it. I should say that I found the brass to be exceptional on this song, though. Anytime you have Colin Stetson as the backup guy that’s pretty impressive.
Overall, I felt they totally delivered. I know that a lot of the SNL-watching demographic probably had no idea who Bon Iver was, but they definitely got a good show. He definitely surpassed the stain left by Lana Del Rey (even if it did produce one of the funniest SNL skits in a long time). Next week, we all get to look forward to the much-awaited performance of the unlistenable pop duo, Karmin. While they haven’t actually released an album yet, they have gained a lot of attention for their covers of Chris Brown, Nicki Minaj, and LMFA songs. Cancel my plans on Saturday- I’m there!