can feel good about himself this week, snagging enthusiastic concert endorsements for his multi-show run on a variety of mid-sized venues here in New York. Consider this our opportunity to pile on. This past Monday that meant a cramped and quartered performance before an entranced gathering at the Bowery Ballroom.
All told, the darling songwriter enlisted 8, 9, maybe 10 musicians (I wasn't counting)for his full-bodied set, pulling material like lotto balls for a compelling, hour and a half performance of songs both new and old. Which numbers would be called over the course of the night? Orchestrated folk favorites of the not so distant past like "Chicago", performed with a subdued, acoustic touch here, the always stirring "Casmir Pulaski Day", " and "Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head" (Tigers' fans might want to consider placing this song on repeat this week) would provide the night's most rapturous, crowd reactions. Also worth noting: Stevens' adorable habit of concluding songs with his own self credit ("That was [insert song here] by Sufjan Stevens").
But the swelling mass also provided the band with a healthy environment in which to "workshop" (his word) several new creations, many of which were unsurprisingly grand in scope. Where Sufjan has wowed with instrumental make up in the past, these latest forays follow suit with his Dark Was the Night
contributions, relying on a variety of electronic skitters, rich heart beat programming, and sheer length to overwhelm the listener, with great effect. True, new titles like "There's Too Much Love", "Impossible Soul", and "Age of Adz (Victoria?)" lacked the sturdy foundation of well practiced, older material. And I imagine many of these songs will continue to evolve as he and his band grow more and more comfortable with them. But the chance to skim over the next chapter in Sufjan's impressive body of work was just too good to pass up.
In the end it would not really matter what was and was not played. Personal favorites aside, any opportunity to cozy up next to the thoughtful, sentimental sounds of one of the decades' most prolific musician feels like a winning ticket in itself. Given the audiences' polite, yet enthusiastic embrace of all things Sufjan, I'm guessing I wasn't the only one in attendance counting themselves lucky to be given the opportunity to cash it in. - David Pitz
The Mistress Witch from McClure
All The Trees In The Field Will Clap Their Hands
Come On! Feel The Illinoise
Casimir Pulaski Day
All Delighted People
Size too Small
The Dress Looks Nice on You
Age of Adz (Victoria?)
Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head!
Neck brace fan-girl poetry
There's Too Much Love
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Sufjan Stevens on Myspace