Sufjan Stevens

I was pleasantly surprised to hear a Sufjan Stevens song on the radio (kcrw, mind you) yesterday because even though his concert I attended a few weeks ago was sold out I believe he’s an undervalued artist. If you haven’t listened to his music you should check it out. Here is a review I wrote of the show.

Sufjan Stevens @ the Wiltern- Los Angeles, CA 10/23/10

For those who love him, Sufjan Stevens is considered something of an indie-folk rock god.  And since he is not known to go on tour too often, when he does perform it’s a must-see show.  His current tour, which stopped off in Los Angeles for two nights at the beautiful Wiltern Theatre on October 23 and 24, though might not be what fans expect from this Detroit-born singer-songwriter.  This tour is a reflection of the new approach he has taken with his music on his most recent record, THE AGE OF ADZ.  It is quite a detour from his folk/indie-pop sound on some of his former records, such as ILLINOIS and MICHIGAN.  THE AGE OF ADZ is more experimental in its production and sound, which was reflected in the show Sufjan put on with his eight-piece band and two female back-up vocalists/dancers.

Stevens began his set on Saturday evening by welcoming the audience saying “Hello, I’m Sufjan and I will be your entertainment for the evening” and proceeded to jump into a beautiful old track, “Seven Swans.”  Entertaining he truly was; the show was not only sonically compelling, it was visually engaging as well.  With so much going on in the background projection screen- video, photography, and art montages-you almost didn’t notice the fact that Sufjan himself was dancing (if you can call it that) on stage along with most of the newer songs, something one wouldn’t necessarily expect of the intelligent, mild-mannered 35-year-old musician.  Between songs Sufjan explained to the audience that the artwork and theme of the album and used in the performance is partially inspired by the work and life of artist Royal Robertson, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and whose work was often apocalyptic themed.

Although some may consider his attempted use of electronics and orchestral sounds as an overzealous and failed attempt at doing something out of his norm, fans appreciate and admire his musical courage to express and push himself.  Although most of the show consisted of his more recent material, fans of his older work were pleased to hear some favorites such as “Casimir Pulaski Day,” “The Dress Looks Nice on You,” and “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” during the shows encore.  The other standouts of the show for me were “I Walk,” “Enchanting Ghost,” “Vesuvius” and “Chicago.”

THE AGE OF ADZ’ final track “Impossible Soul,” a twenty five minute eclectic masterpiece that even at one point included the use of auto-tune, is a beautiful love declaration that when witnessed live is nothing short of a wonderful and breath-taking experience; it may even very well be Sufjan’s magnum opus.  Although I wish Sufjan played more of his older songs that made me first fall in love with him years ago, his performance still managed to make it up there on my list of all-time favorites.

Sufjan Stevens- “Impossible Soul”

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