October 16, 2010
I don’t think I’d ever sat in the front row of a concert before this one (I was close enough to the stage to get sweat on by peter garrett but I don’t think that counts). I don’t go to that many sit down shows, and I’m definitely not that lucky, so no big surprise there. But four front row seats for Sufjan? I guess it helped that the show was announced before All Delighted People AND The Age of Adz were announced, and it was a fanclub pre-sale, but still I got completely shut out for the 400 bar show (and Shawn was even helping) so even with the show at the Orpheum, I wasn’t even hoping for first five rows. Somebody is cashing in karma points.
But you might exclaim, two cds of new material (how can it be an ep if it’s 60 minutes, you might also ask)? I can’t digest, you protest. Plus he’s going to focus on that isn’t he and we won’t be able to sing along (and weep when we hear the first notes) of all our favorites, and isn’t it a departure in sound for him (all electronic and dancey)? What good is Sufjan if he isn’t doing his state songs or his acoustifolk stuff?
Well…let me start off by saying, I too am I’m not totally on board with the new stuff. I think his folky stuff is his sweet spot musically and those plunky banjo songs….well…there’s a reason oreos are delicious. But still, I applaud his artistic yearning and he’s definitely earned my respect and willingness to follow him on his musical journey. Also, I was warming considerable to the sound even before the show.
However, some of your fears were realized. He played mostly the new stuff (with a couple of seven swan tunes thrown in and a couple favorites in the encore) playing almost all of The Age of Adz over the course of the 2 plus hour show. I think he did help me turn a corner on the new songs, the arrangements were less fussy than the recording and he definitely put a lot of intensity in a few songs (rocking out at a level folks would not expect…especially on Vesuvius.) He had a nice big band with him (although he did play solo acoustic for a couple lovely songs...highlights for me) Too Much (I think this was the one with the funky and by funky I mean super nerdy choreography), Heirloom, The Owl and the Tanager and Get Real, Get Right were some of the highlights for me. And just to make everyone happy, he pulled out Chicago for the encore, so everybody got their big singalong.
Admittedly, the show was a work in progress as Sufjan and the band worked out live arrangements on the fly, missing a lyric here and there, and a number of false starts and do overs. I could see where some folks would be annoyed by that, but he has such a charming, unpretentious manner, that I felt more like I was watching a private, friendly spontaneous rehearsal, rather than a stuffy IMPORTANT alternative icon show, so those warts just enhanced the show for me.
(and ok, I’ve been saying Sufjan incorrectly for forever. But I’m not gonna help you out, you’ll have to figure it out on your own…maybe when you are sitting in the front row and your significant other catches you in a mistaken pronunciation)