Taylor Swift joins Bon Iver and Aaron Dessner at London's OVO Arena for surprise performance

Bon Iver fans were treated to a surprise last night as Taylor Swift joined the band at London's OVO Arena for a rousing performance of "exile", their collaboration from Swift's 2020 album folklore. 

Also joining Bon Iver's Justin Vernon on stage was Aaron Dessner of The National, who produced "exile" and Swift's albums folklore and evermore, and performs in side-project Big Red Machine with Vernon. The performance marks the first time the song has ever been performed live by the trio, and the first time Swift has performed with Vernon. 

Dessner initially came on stage to perform Big Red Machine's "Reese" with Vernon, before the pair launched into a rendition of "exile" by themselves. After Vernon completed the first verse and chorus, Swift walked on stage unannounced to rapturous applause and launched into her second verse. Once the song had finished, Vernon thanked "the most talented person in the world, Taylor Swift," before Swift returned the compliment. 

Bon Iver are currently completing a UK/EU tour that's seen stops in Dublin, Leeds, and London. The tour was initially announced in 2019, before being postponed for several years due to the pandemic. Wednesday night's career-spanning, 20-song setlist saw them dip into classics such as "Skinny Love" and "Flume" from their 2008 debut For Emma, Forever Ago, along with cuts from their Grammy-winning self-titled 2011 album, including "Holocene" and "Calgary". They also performed "Hey Ma",  "Jelmore" and "RABi" from the band's 2019 album, I, I. The concert ended with a stirring singalong performance of "The Wolves (Act I & II)". 

Prior to Swift's appearance, the band also performed a new, previously unheard song called "Speyside". In the prelude to the song's performance, Vernon said that the day he wrote it, he shared the demo with "two friends that are here tonight", hinting at the surprise that was to come later in the evening. 

Bon Iver have partnered with L-Acoustics to provide the sound for this tour, who utilised their L-ISA Hyperreal sound technology to design an immersive experience for fans. L-Acoustics work closely with artists to custom-design sound systems that allow them to spatially distribute different elements of a performance across multiple speaker arrays. 

In a video for L-Acoustics (embedded below), Vernon describes how the technology has transformed their performances, recalling the first show that they used it for, after which their engineer told Vernon, "that’s the best show you’ve ever played, and it has a lot to do with that sound system.”

"Overall, if we're going to prioritise what we're bringing to the people out there, it's what goes in their ears. We're making an experience," he continued. "We've gotten to be on the ground floor of something new [...] It's not just two stacks of speakers in a room anymore."

Following their UK dates, Bon Iver are touring Europe and Australia. Find out more and buy tickets on their website.

Matt Mullen
Tech Editor

I'm the Tech Editor for MusicRadar, working across everything from artist interviews to product news to tech tutorials. I love electronic music and I'm endlessly fascinated by the tools we use to make it. When I'm not behind my laptop keyboard, you'll find me behind a MIDI keyboard, carefully crafting the beginnings of another project that I'll ultimately abandon to the creative graveyard that is my overstuffed hard drive.