Last Thursday I went to see one of my absolute favorite singers at the Riverside. The doors opened at 7 p.m., and I waited anxiously as the opener, Little Scream (not bad!), played out their final song. Then, at 9 p.m. it was time: Finally I would get to see Sufjan Stevens live for the first time!
Before I gush over his enthralling performance, I’d like to give you some information about this wonderful artist. Sufjan (many of his fans don’t even know how to say his name) is one of those crazy unique artists who just happens to be wild enough to make it all work. He is incredibly talented, even without his mysterious voice.
He plays numerous instruments, and often on the same track in various odd time signatures. The odd machines he plays with range from his (pink) banjo to a theremin, and he surrounds himself with many other talented musicians, who all come together to create beautiful music.
His albums, released by Asthmatic Kitty, have all been incredible, and I cannot recommend any single one because they are all so different, from electronica to indie pop to psychedelic folk. Each album is completely unique from the rest, which makes all of his performances exciting.
Sufjan is an all-around artist, from the intriguing art on his albums to the amazing lighting in his shows, to the orchestras he conducts, to the books and movies he makes. For example, the multimedia The BQE is an amazing configuration consisting of Sufjan, an entire orchestra, and of course hula hoopers. And that is just to name a few! Sufjan is the only artist I know who can have a song last 25 minutes, and still have people love every single second of it. (Check it out on his 2010 album Age of Adz!)
Also, if for some crazy reason you are not yet intrigued, you will enjoy all of the insanely long and strange titles to his songs and shows. For example, his 2012 tour was titled The Sirfjam Stephanapolous Christmas Sing-A-Long Seasonal Affective Disorder Spectacular Music Pageant Variety Show Disaster. And of course, I have to mention his ridiculous outfits—he has performed while wearing wings!
Alright, I could keep going about the intoxicating harmony and deeply complex lyrics but instead I will share my experience from last Thursday. Sufjan played for us his newest album, Carrie & Lowell, which was released March 31 and is hauntingly beautiful and my new favorite. The visual effects of the smoke and lighting were amazing, but the encore was what truly brought me out of my seat. We cheered wildly for about five minutes, and then Sufjan came back out and played my favorite song in the whole entire world, “Concerning the UFO Sighting near Highland, Illinois.” He then proceeded to play “Chicago” (both songs are from his 2005 album Come On! Feel The Illinois!, part of his 50 states project), and when he left for the second time, the roof was practically shaking from the screams and shouts.
Sufjan did not just perform, he created a wonderful piece of art for all of us to be a part of, and it was like nothing I have ever felt before at any concert.
Tuned In is a regular music column written by Michele Haeberlin, Current Staff.