Posted in music on November 16, 2010

words by David Andrako

night 1 (more)
Sufjan

Sufjan Steven's tour-ending show at The Beacon Theatre took an unexpected turn Monday night at the two hour mark when the subdued, seated audience leapt to its feet and turned the front orchestra section into an impromptu electro-folk hippie-intergalactic dance party. The moment happened at the midway point of the set-closing 25-minute-plus song "Impossible Soul" from Sufjan's latest album "The Age of Adz." The performance started rather inauspiciously when one of the two drummers on stage knocked over one of his snare drums and Sufjan struggled with his effects pedal causing him to nearly miss his guitar solo. A stagehand reset the drum and Sufjan recovered to lead his 11 person backing band into a rollicking, jagged, electronic extended jam that featured, among other things, glow in the dark shorts, hundreds of balloons that dropped from the ceiling, an autotuned Sufjan singing with a glowing headdress and some choreographed (and some most definitely not choreographed) dance moves featuring Sufjan, his two backup singers and frequent collaborator Jessica Dessner. The song, which is more like a mixtape than a traditional folk/rock/pop song, eventually slowed as Sufjan stepped to his microphone with his guitar and sang the final 2-minute reprise. The audience rewarded the band with a lengthy standing ovation and applause that lasted until the band returned to the stage to perform the only song of the encore, "Chicago".

Having attended and photographed Sunday night's show, I was eager to see how both crowds would react to the new material. "Seven Swans", which opened up both shows, set the tone for the evening as the 2010 version featured Sufjan's hushed singing and banjo playing until the halfway point when he stopped playing his banjo and switched over to a synthesizer. As the song reached its final peak, he began jumping up and down and playing with his entire body. The song, long a part of Sufjan's catalog, had been transformed into a bridge between the older more acoustic material and the new digitally influenced work.

The first half of the set featured songs Sufjan has released in 2010 on "The Age of Adz" and the preceeding EP "All Delighted People." Up-tempo, electronic, loud songs ("Age of Adz" and "Vesuvius") were interspersed amongst quieter acoustic songs ("Heirloom" and "Futile Devices"). The setlist was identical to the previous night until the band performed the infrequently played "All Delighted People" to which Sufjan remarked, "destroys us when we play it." The song ended with Sufjan and band taking a deep breath and a quick drink of water before launching into a delicate version of "Enchanting Ghost." DM Stith, who was the opening act for both shows (and the entire tour) and played piano in the backing band, and Cat Martino, who sang backup, both deserve special praise for their performances. Their vocals stood out and complemented Sufjan's voice especially well on "The Owl and The Tanager."

The shows featured digital art that was created by Deborah Johnson and projected behind the band and sometimes projected in front of them on a translucent scrim that was raised and lowered throughout the show. The art (and the music of "The Age Of Adz") was influenced by the work of Prophet Royal Robertson, a Louisiana based sign painter who produced thousands of paintings that feature scenes of the end of the world, monsters and religious imagery. Sufjan frequently bantered between songs, whether it was telling a fantastical story about his grandfather, an onion farmer who was blessed with the ability to shoot lightning out of his hands and feet, or proclaiming his love for trigonometry and algebra. He also thanked the band for playing all of his "32nd and 64th notes" which were the products of, as DM Stith described, some "12 hour band practices."

Night one pictures HERE. Last night's setlist with some videos below...

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Sufjan Stevens - Too Much Live HD- HL -Beacon Theater NYC 11/15/10

Sufjan Stevens - Age of Adz Live HD - Final Tour Show, Beacon Theater NYC 11/15/10

Sufjan Stevens "Chicago" live final tour stop NYC 11/15/10

Sufjan Stevens - Impossible Soul 1 - Beacon Theatre - Nov 15, 2010

Sufjan Stevens Impossible Soul 2 - Beacon Theatre - Nov 15, 2010

Sufjan Stevens Impossible Soul 3 - Beacon Theatre - Nov 15, 2010

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Sufjan's setlist
Seven Swans
Too Much
Age of Adz
Heirloom
I Walked
Futile Devices
Vesuvius
The Owl and The Tanager
Get Real
All Delighted People
Enchanted Ghost
I Want To Be Well
Impossible Soul
encore:
Chicago

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Comments (35)

the one show you guys didnt get pics of looks like it would have sweet pics lol

Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 1:45 PM

last night >> first night >> jonsi

Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 1:51 PM

Nice! I went to the Portland Oregon show (photos on my page), and it was wicked good. I wish he'd tour more often. One of the best shows I've been to in a while.

~Dan

Posted by POSTY McPOSTERTON | November 16, 2010 1:51 PM

Gonna chime in and say show of the year before the haters gonna hate.

Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 1:53 PM

1:51..geez you fools need to go back to school. You mixed up your greater than signs should read last night<<first night<<jonsi.

Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 1:58 PM

All Delighted People + Impossible Soul = seriously epic setlist

slightly better performances Sunday, slightly better energy Monday

so glad I hit both

Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 2:04 PM

This has got to be the unfunniest joke ever

Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 2:05 PM

amazing show.. really something to see.. a modern day pink floyd/bowie/byrne..

Posted by fons.$ke.. | November 16, 2010 2:12 PM

It really looks like he got is costumes or whatever at the dollar store

Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 2:13 PM

I walked out of the show in Philly. Hands down the worst concert I was ever at.

Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 2:17 PM

2:12, Pink Floyd? Come on, just stop it now.

Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 2:19 PM

anon 2:17 - CONGRATS! You're a retard!

Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 2:23 PM

Most of the set was great, but his banter was retarded and "Impossible Soul" is easily his worst and most excruciatingly long song.

Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 2:36 PM

Have seen Sufjan several times over the years, and last night was a mess. Seems like he's over-identified with Royal Robertson, the confrontational, schizophrenic outsider artist that informed Adz, and is trying too hard to sublimate his fey/strummy-strum tendencies (and obvious gifts he has for writing great tunes & harmonies). Big chunks of the show musically were trying of patience if not flat-out annoying. For Impossible Soul, the 25-min closer, he was dressed like Cher in a Jiffy Pop by Bob Mackie Halloween costume, and balloons fell from the ceiling (woo-hoo!). You want to call this great art, fine. But it's an overreach on your and Sufjan's parts. I wasn't about to walk out, even when I was laughing, but 2:17 isn't that far off the mark.

Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 2:37 PM

This show seems to confirm that Sufjan is officially gay.

Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 2:56 PM

I don't get the hate. I've seen him many times pre and post going glow stick and I thought the Adz tour was excellent (as were previous tours). It's a different sound and show, but still great...

Too much bitching all around; blog comments have become irrelevant recently... I only scroll down for set times, set lists, etc now...

Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 3:02 PM

much better posting than the ridiculous 'high point was the acoustic material' review posted yesterday.

Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 3:24 PM

I thought it was pretty fun. The concert needed to sink in, and now I appreciate it more than yesterday.

I do kind of feel like BQE must have really taken a lot out of him, 'cause I hear it all over the new stuff. Hopefully this was his album to move away from it.

Could have done without the "You are so beautiful!" lady. Ugh.

And yay, DM Stith!

Posted by Cuse | November 16, 2010 4:23 PM

too edgy 4 me

Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 4:34 PM

2:37 nailed it. Plus, if you're going to play Kevin Barnes, why choose the 2010 incarnation? Good record, lackluster show.

Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 4:43 PM

loved the between song patter and great sound mix... and the junk store home made costumes were perfect... a great artist and musician... and super band... psychedelia has returned...

Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 5:10 PM

It was a great show. Loved the energy. A lot of the "silliness" was exactly what Sufjan wanted to do. He commented on how his fans become overly serious about his music. He wanted to deviate from the predictable while making this album. Sufjan is a legend in my book.

Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 6:23 PM

That lead picture makes me so grateful that I stopped by his albums a long time ago.

Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 8:02 PM

^^^^and your comment makes me grateful for proofreaders because it made no fucking sense whatsoever.

Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 8:25 PM

---Posted by Anonymous | November 16, 2010 2:37 PM---
"Have seen Sufjan several times over the years, and last night was a mess. Seems like he's over-identified with Royal Robertson, the confrontational, schizophrenic outsider artist that informed Adz, and is trying too hard to sublimate his fey/strummy-strum tendencies (and obvious gifts he has for writing great tunes & harmonies). Big chunks of the show musically were trying of patience if not flat-out annoying. For Impossible Soul, the 25-min closer, he was dressed like Cher in a Jiffy Pop by Bob Mackie Halloween costume, and balloons fell from the ceiling (woo-hoo!). You want to call this great art, fine. But it's an overreach on your and Sufjan's parts. I wasn't about to walk out, even when I was laughing, but 2:17 isn't that far off the mark."

First and foremost, maybe you should consider diversifying your musical palate before spewing so much ignorant crap across my screen.
I bet you're one of those people who consider themselves to be an artist (please pronounce as ignorantly as possible), which of course is one of the most pretentious things one can claim THEMSELVES to be. Did you ever stop and consider for a moment that everything a musician does need not be so far up its own ass for the sake of "art"? Yeah, because the giant fake wings and boyscout outfits of yesterday were so thoroughly artistic, right?
Sufjan has ALWAYS had an extremely goofy and campy aesthetic to his "art", or whatever people like you are calling it these days. At what point did you miss that? If anything worn onstage surprised you last night then you are certainly lying about having seen him perform several times.

Since the album appeared online I've heard plenty of people in my "line of work" comment on how they don't enjoy it as much compared to his previous albums. Absolutely none of them have said it's terrible. I myself have mixed feelings on some of his production decisions. However, the album performed in a live setting is just tremendous. Sufjan has always been a stickler about his live performances. He's infamously self-conscious and an extreme perfectionist. Everything I just stated was pretty obvious in how tight and grandiose the band was last night. Especially it being the last show on the tour.
All of my expectations have been exceeded for this album having seen a handful of shows on this tour. I've seen Sufjan perform in venues ranging from churches to Carnegie Hall. Out of all of the songs he has these deserve the most to be recorded live and released. They sound much more organic and defined with the band in the forefront opposed to synths and drum loops.

I almost never post like this anywhere on the internet. I am however sick and tired of going to great shows only to see idiots like you standing around pompously acting too cool to enjoy the show you paid $50 to attend. Guess what Cochise, the jokes on you.


I know, I know. This was extremely long winded considering all I needed to say was this.
You didn't like the balloons? Seriously? Who doesn't enjoy a balloon drop? What's it like to hate fun as much as you do?

Posted by Carl Sagan | November 16, 2010 11:18 PM

Balloon drop....

Posted by Dee | November 17, 2010 7:06 AM

I respect Sufjan and his vision/muse/schizophrenia (:-)), but I just haven't connected with the new material. I was at Monday's show and was really disappointed he didn't do a few more old songs in the encore like he did Sunday night. It was the fourth time I've seen him live and easily my least favorite. But I'm still a big fan and look forward to his next direction

Posted by Reckoner | November 17, 2010 10:12 AM

@ Carl Sagan...I find it absurdly presumptuous for you to claim I need to "diversify my musical palate," that I consider myself "an Artist," that I was "standing around pompously acting too cool to enjoy the show" and that "I hate fun." You're quick to assume a constellation of things (about which you're wrong on all accounts), yet you call me an idiot. For the record, I quite like Adz and respect Sufjan's audacity and willingness to explore new avenues, not just kick out more lyrical banjo tunes to please an established audience (which he could obviously do with ease). I simply thought the show as a whole didn't work and wasn't wowed by the autotune or campy dance moves and costumes -- at the expense of the music -- and didn't think it convincingly translated to a live setting (no matter how "tight and grandiose" you found the band). I wasn't transported as I have been at other Sufjan shows, but that doesn't mean he had to check off a list of past, pretty hits for me to enjoy the show. The colorful balloons were fine, I just didn't enjoy them as much as those who (apparently) don't consider themselves pretentious artists unwilling to have a good time.

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2010 11:31 AM

how personal and poignant.*sings*
"and when i die, and when i die,
i rot.
and when i live, and when i live,
i'll give it all i got."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v31wwyteRqo

Posted by Royal Roberts | November 18, 2010 12:18 AM

whoops. sorry. i am only after all a messed up schizophrenic.......jackie blue does rock though....and in heavy rotation recently in my own personal pig in space dance party, this is what i really meant...adultress keep OUT!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILpPDL_TJ1g

Posted by Royal Roberts | November 18, 2010 12:22 AM

I personally thought this was the best show I've ever been to. As a professional musician myself, I've played a lot of shows and I've been to a lot of shows. This one was utter brilliance, on a level I've only seen matched by Radiohead. Jonsi doesn't even come close for me. To each his own I guess though.

Posted by Ryan | November 18, 2010 11:04 PM

"I am however sick and tired of going to great shows only to see idiots like you standing around pompously acting too cool to enjoy the show you paid $50 to attend. Guess what Cochise, the jokes on you."

Well said--I agree. My own dreary un-employed existence is bad enough ---any opportunity I have to lighten it and delight in something and go crazy stupid happy wild over the smallest thing...I will.

Posted by ellemint | November 20, 2010 4:02 PM

I went to both nights and thought his new shtick was hilarious, kitsch, asinine and epic.

Obviously a ton of people would be up in arms, but seriously, god forbid this guy gets a little sick of playing the same folk songs for almost a decade, and tries something new, and *fun*

Posted by Anonymous | November 21, 2010 11:09 AM

I was VERY happy to see him finally play "I Want To Be Well," (especially since he introduced it first as "This is a song about illness," and then a minute later, "We're not going to do that one.") AFAIK, this is the one and only time he played it on this tour, and it's my favorite song from the album.

Posted by Alex Kraus | November 21, 2010 11:42 PM

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