Saxophone solos, extended fiddle intros, two drumsets and a handful of extra percussionists besides - Bon Iver are unafraid of the overblown. Which is good, because it takes a lot to fill - and even more to move - this cattle-shed of a venue. Support act Kathleen Edwards failed to capture the attention of the sold-out C-Halle crowd, but the lush layers of the surprisingly "big sounding" Bon Iver album are impossible to ignore. Epic Phil Collins drum sounds and guitar riffs underpinned by huge horns bely a delicate recreation of the heavily-produced second album, right down to barely-audible rhythm tracks created by fingered trumpet valves.
By contrast, the more straightforward songs from For Emma, Foverer Ago sound a little blunt and overamplified when they are introduced halfway into the set. "Flume" in particular is at its most interesting when its mid-section deconstructs into stratchy acoustic noise. Never mind, this is what 90% of the crowd have come to hear, and they sing along with gusto - even if they have to be shushed during bandleader Justin Vernon's more pensive moments, and cheer inappropriately at the lonely lament "when your money's gone / and you're drunk as hell".
While most will remember the final singalong "The Wolves", we walk away with the track before echoing in our ears. "Beth/Rest" sounds like it was made to close arena gigs, once everyone else has moved on from For Emma... just as its writer has. It's the perfect crescendo of a pristine concert, with its Peter Gabriel sonics and lyrical genius:
"Our love is a star
Sure some hazardry
For the light before and after most indefinitely"
Photo of Justin and his cat courtesy of the Bon Iver blog.