Monday, October 18, 2010

Boy, we can do much more together.

I knew, from previous reports, that the Sufjan Stevens concert on Friday night would be almost entirely made up of his new music, mostly from his new album The Age of Adz, plus some songs from his EP All Delighted People. And since, as I mentioned in my review, I love the new album (and it has continued to grow and grow), I was pretty excited to see what he was going to do with this new stuff. I also knew that some old fans who had not quite gotten into the new music might be disappointed. But he is touring his new album, after all.

So I found myself at the Chicago Theatre for the second time in a week. We were up in the balcony again, very excited for the show. After a boring opening act, Sufjan took the stage. Again, having heard that the show was entirely new music until the encore, imagine my surprise when the first song was a stunning and loud rendition of "Seven Swans."

And then came the new stuff, and it was pure joy to watch. Sufjan is a genius with an angelic voice, and as he made his way through the new music, I came to love it all the more. In addition, along the way Sufjan explained what the new album was all about. He called it an "exploration of the internal cosmos." In addition, he explained, in great detail, how he had lost his way as a songwriter and needed something new. To that end he decided to throw out everything that was familiar, which, as he said, was why "you won't hear any banjo in these songs." Hearing him explain his process a bit made me fall even more deeply in love with the new album, but mostly the music just sounded amazing.

Sufjan (and his band and backup dancers) jammed out on the upbeat songs and sent our souls to the domed ceiling on the slow songs. The weirdness of the music was made weirder by the odd and often grotesque imagery projected on the back screen.

Some highlights (from the new music) for me included "I Walked," "The Age of Adz," and "Heirloom." but the absolute show-stealing performance was "Impossible Soul," the 25-minute five-part epic that closes the new album. The song covers about eight or nine genres, and goes from slow and mournful to full-on dance. But this song live is a wonder to behold. When the beats kicked in (at about the 12-minute mark), the theater came alive. People danced in the aisles as Sufjan and his band belted out, "Boy, we can do much more together." Then he moved in to the T-Pain autotune, danced around the stage, and finally brought us to the acoustic closing. I stood and stared in awe of the talent I was witnessing.

And then Sufjan acknowledged that perhaps this show was not what people had signed on for. He said, "You are very brave to sit through and entire concert of new music." But the audience erupted in cheering, yelling things like "We love it!" and other such praise. And then Sufjan said, "Of course this is for you, because I used to escape to Chicago . . . Of course it's much nicer now to escape here, with a tour bus. And catering. And a hotel. And a spa." Of course "Chicago" began, and the crowd soared to its feet.

The encore was filled with old songs, including a song he claimed to never play, "Decatur," which he played with just his banjo.
Seven Swans 

Too Much 

Age of Adz 


I Walked
Now That I'm Older 


Futile Devices 

Get Real Get Right 

The Owl and the Tanager 

Impossible Soul 


Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois 

Decatur, Or, Round Of Applause For Your Stepmother! 

Casimir Pulaski Day 

John Wayne Gacy, Jr.

The concert closed with some of his most heart-wrenching songs, but as my friend Brad said, we had gone on a great journey during this show. What a powerful, strange, moving, and fun show this was.


At 10:13 PM, Blogger undulatingorb posited...

I am kicking myself for not going to do this!! I'm glad you were there.

At 6:53 PM, Anonymous John Middlemiss posited...

I'm seeing him Monday in Oakland and was kind of resigned to listening to his new album which is a "work in progress" for me but when I saw the track listing I saw that he played some of his older songs including my two favourite songs of all time - casmir and john wayne. If he ends like that on Monday I will be a very happy bunny indeed. Relistening to Impossible Soul has given he an entry point into Adz so I'm very much up for the whole thing now! Wow! JM

At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Marvin Marks posited...

The Age of Adz is my album of the year.

I'd love to see him perform these songs live... hopefully he comes around these parts.


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