From the get-go it seemed that the crowd was in high spirits, despite rain that, at times, came down fairly hard. As I have grown older, I have truly come to appreciate the invention of the umbrella (much love to the Chinese for thinking of water-proofing their parasols). But for those of us that came “prepared”, there were plenty that came “unprepared”, yet didn’t seem to care whatsoever. Ah, to be young again….I digress, back to the review.
So, let’s go through the list: Glow in the dark space suits? Check! Dancers? Check! Choreography? Check! Projection Screen with futuristic and apocalyptic images? “Do you wanna dance?” Check!
Not necessarily knowing what to expect, I went into this show with open arms. Figuring this show would be a straight-through performance of Age of Adz, I was pleasantly surprised when Stevens and his band opened with “Seven Swans” and sprinkled other tastings of his past works throughout the performance. Upon completion of “Futile Devices”, Stevens thanked the crowd profusely for being “soldiers and warriors” and coming out in spite of the rain. Stevens seemed truly impressed and touched that the crowd was in such high spirits, and this sentiment rang true with the inspired performance that ensued.
Before beginning “Now That I’m Older”, Stevens appeared to be shuffling through some papers, admitting to the fact that he was looking for the lyrics to the song, because he could not remember them at all, he simply must be “getting older”. It was a light-hearted moment during the show. Despite actually finding the lyrics, Stevens still struggled with them, and even skipped ahead to the final chorus just to finish the song. Some may be disappointed by what happened, but I find this to be part of experiencing a live show. It happens; get over it. I’m certainly not going to let it ruin my night.
Stevens discussed his muse for the album, the artist Royal Robertson. Robertson was a Louisiana-based artist that suffered from schizophrenia, who believed that he had been visited by aliens and had many apocalyptic visions – which are represented in his artwork (it also makes up the basis of the projection screen footage, as well as the album cover art). Stevens went on to say that he wanted to put down the banjo and guitar, and “surround myself with noise”. This led into “Get Real, Get Right”, with all of its swirling synthesized sounds to give meaning to what was just said.
“Vesuvius” is a song that truly shines in the live setting. Its epic lyrics and qualities brought about my favorite moments of the evening. From the simple piano intro, to the sweeping, ethereal vocals in the middle/end parts of the song, I truly found myself brought into this world of Royal Roberston through the lyrics of Sufjan Stevens. The question “Why does it have to be so hard?” begs to be answered at the end of the song. For Stevens, it doesn’t seem to be so hard; it actually seems to come pretty easily for him.
The set ended with the 25-minute long opus “Impossible Soul”. Between the trippy visuals of the projection screen, Stevens and his band dancing on stage, to the inflated balls floating over the crowd, this was the way to end the show. With the crowd singing along, the show came to a close. Cheers and shrieks ensued, with Stevens coming out to perform the ballad “Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois” for the start of the encore. Though only hitting the two-minute mark, this song is truly beautiful and serene. Being one of the first songs I ever heard by Stevens, it goes without saying that I was extremely happy to hear it. I’m not going to lie, I wish I could say that I stayed for the end of the show and could write about it, but I didn’t. The rain, which had been coming down all evening, had finally taken its toll. It was time to the take the long, wet walk back to the car. For those of you that made it to the very end, kudos to you. You get my admiration for holding on to your youthful abandon and carelessness; as for me, as Stevens had alluded to earlier in the evening….maybe I AM simply getting older (and sometimes just can’t take the rain like I used to). Overall, the show was a huge success; rain or shine. Glad to have been there.
Written By Chris Meyer