Bon Iver Gets a New Sound in Los Angeles

Purple lights enchant the stage at the final show of Bon Iver's 2021 tour.
Purple lights enchant the stage at the final show of Bon Iver's 2021 tour.

Last week in Los Angeles, Bon Iver played a jaw-dropping two-night run at SoFi Stadium’s state-of-the-art YouTube Theatre, the finale of the band’s 2021 tour, which also marked the 10-year anniversary since its debut album. What made these live shows particularly special, however, was the quality of their sound. The performances were the first to use L-Acoustics’s L-ISA Hyperreal Sound, a new immersive technology that takes live music to its most elevated sonic experience yet.

Bon Iver stage with glaring lights.
Bon Iver at the Youtube Theatre in Inglewood, California.

Not often seen, but surely heard, at concerts and festivals such as Coachella, Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza, L-Acoustics technology is used by some of the biggest artists in the world, and helps audiophiles connect with the music like never before. The France-headquartered audio company is shaping the future of sound. At SoFi, Bon Iver lead singer Justin Vernon’s vocals reverberated through the space in a way that made listening to the band a full body experience. For these two shows only, the Theatre’s sound system was enhanced from a 2.1 stereo sound system to a 7.1 spatial system, counting over 180 speakers in all. Scott Sugden, head of product and technology marketing at L-Acoustics, promised it would be both the loudest and quietest show Bon Iver fans had ever attended, all in the same song. He was correct.

Stage as seen from the audience.
The concert's L-Acoustic set up immerses the audience in the music.

The gentlest falsettos were so clear and the delicate acoustic moments so integral to the band’s arrangements were distinct. As someone who has seen Bon Iver perform three times prior, this show had sonic details I’d never heard before in a live venue: the differences between the two drummers, for example, or the nuances of Vernon’s iconic voice, made possible using his groundbreaking synthesizer, the Messina. A meticulous combination of hardware and software put together by the singer’s engineer, the technology allows the vocal grit effects Bon Iver fans recognize, heard even better in a concert setting thanks to L-ISA sound.

All technicality aside, this was one of the most incredible shows I have ever attended. Tears were shed and the energy in the 6,000-seat venue felt like that of an intimate gig. Before heading into the concert, Sugden jokingly apologized because “every show after tonight is not going to be the same.” I floated out of the theater thinking just that.

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