Tag: All Delighted People
As the lights dimmed at the historic Paramount Theater, my heart skipped a beat. Out of the darkness Sufjan Stevens and his band took the stage as projections of stars began to move and dance across the giant screen set on the back of the performance area. Quietly plucking a banjo, Stevens started into “Seven Swans,” a song about celestial visions and extra-ordinary occurrences. Upon reaching the first bridge, the entire stage erupted in a massive wave of sound and color. “Seven Swans” was a folk song no more- it had become a means of intensely declaring the beginning of the show and the end of times.
The re-worked rendition of “Seven Swans” stood as a harbinger of things to come. Shifting quickly into several cuts from his newest record The Age of Adz, the backing imagery changed and mesmerized, culminating in a Royal Robertson-inspired display of images from the end of the world. Remarking on the paradox between self-preservation and the urge to dive into “the universe” (or, as he put it, “Whatever psychobabble you prefer”) Stevens & Co. drove straight in to a fiery rendition of “Vesuvius.”
During several instances throughout the evening, Stevens talked at length about the tension between his old art-forms and what he described as a “sonic-journey.” Explaining how he found camaraderie in the outsider artist Robertson, Stevens proceeded to walk through his personal descent into experimentalism, the process of art as a form of human development and the mistake of confusing heartache with the end of the world.
The entire night had been pulsing and moving toward a grand finale. The epic 35-minute rendition of “Impossible Soul” was truly a remarkable piece of performance art. Ebbing and flowing from one movement to the next, this one song managed to conjure feelings of intense exuberance and melancholy. Things got a little strange, and other-worldly as transitions occurred. Perhaps one of the more entertaining bits came toward the end, when Stevens put on a Michael Jackson-inspired glove, Kanye West-inspired shutter shades, a monkey mask, and began using autotuned and vocoded microphones.
Following “Impossible Soul,” Stevens played his most famous song- “Chicago.” Similar to the reworked version of “Seven Swans,” the new version of his single was brought to a new life, perhaps surpassing the original form. Following a brief break, Stevens returned to the stage (sans his band) to perform a few soft, acoustic songs (“Concerning the UFO…” “To Be Alone With You,” and “John Wanyne Gacy Jr.”)
In retrospect, this may have been one of the best concerts I have ever attended. Once the music started every other thing on my mind vanished and I was absorbed into the sound and sight of it all. The feeling of pure musical ecstasy is something I have felt before, but it had been months since I witnessed such a display of raw talent and emotion. Furthermore, I now have a greater appreciation for the new artistic directions Stevens has decided to pursue. The Age of Adz is truly one of those records that lends itself to a grandiose showing in a live environment.
Click for more photos.
It’s no secret that one of my all-time-favorite musicians is Sufjan Stevens. With the exception of a few tracks and an orchestral album about the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway there hasn’t been much new Sufjan in the vein of his previous traditional indie-folk-pop records recently. That changed this last week with the release of All Delighted People, an EP that feels more like a full-length album.
Kicking off the EP is the orchestral original version of the title track, an 11+ minute track that showcases the musical developments Stevens has made since 2005′s Come On Feel The Illinoise! Each track unfolds to reveal a few familiar features (plenty of banjo, warm piano, plenty of horns and strings, etc.) in addition to markedly more experimental undertones.
News of this release came on the heels of details/ticketing for a Fall 2010 tour (tickets for the Nov. 2 Denver date may still be available). Currently this release is available through Bandcamp and will likely see physical (CD & LP) releases in late 2010. Stream the whole thing below.