Sunday, February 06, 2011

Sufjan Stevens

On Monday night Katie and I drove down to Melbourne after work, for the magical musical experience that is Sufjan Stevens. Finding our awesome seats in the State Theatre at the Arts Centre, on the balcony edge of Circle just in time for the support.

Tim Hart engaged the crowd with his solo set, standing in the centre of the full stage of instruments for the main act, with stories and folk songs. His banter, and appreciation of the listening music lovers in front of him was endearing. I have since read he is the drummer of much loved Boy And Bear. What a talent.

Opening with Seven Swans, Sufjan arrived on stage in a black skin suit, covered with fluro pieces. As was his guitar, and the piano beside him. Two drummers, two backing dancers and vocalists, two horns, and a host of other percussionists on stage with him, Sufjan still stole the show as he introduced himself to the audience.

Most of the show was from the newer release The Age of Adz, with Heirloom thrown in from the surprise EP also released last year. The level of detail in the stage sounds, right down to the chimes, was incredible. The lighting show was then another layer on top, with a screen that would come down in front of the stage for a couple of numbers, to enhance the effects.

Sufjan chatted at intervals, with a monologue about his obsession with space and alien life, thus explaining the visuals we were seeing. He told us of Royal Robertson, the artist of much of the images, who was also obsessed with these ideas, perhaps within his mental illness. Sufjan then played Get Real Get Right.

Sufjan apologised for the length of some of his most recent tracks, explaining of late he has tired of starting with lyrics, and has been playing with sounds. He says that he has been letting the sounds take over, and this creates the tracks. The epic 25 minute Impossible Soul, he explains, is really several songs within one. And it was amazing! The second part featuring Sufjan in front of a diamond cut out, and several crazy hats on.

The third and most vibrant part of the song had the crowd enthralled, and the bottom section up dancing, as coloured balloons were released down from the roof. Such an enlifting experience, being in this theatre for this, live.

After the climax of the end of the set, and a longish break, Sufjan returned for the encore, which comprised of tracks from Illinois. Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois on piano, and then the beautiful John Wayne Gacy, Jr.. The night rounded off with the lively Chicago, with the bottom tier again up on their feet and dancing.

A feeling of bemusement at the musical wonder we had just seen, the crowd streamed out into the night, blown away by the experience of enchanting, self-indugent, mythical folk songs, with the overlay of electro magic. One of the most uplifting gig I have been too, such a pleasure!

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