Posted in music | pictures on August 4, 2011

photos by Jessica Amaya & words by Rachel Kowal

Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens

There's no question. The Age of Adz, Sufjan Stevens' bombastic game-changer-of-an-album is hugely divisive among fans and critics alike. Many balked at its sheer absurdity and accompanying oddball aesthetic. When I first heard the new album, I admit I was one of the skeptics. It was the gentle beauty of Michigan and quirky magnificence of Seven Swans that initially drew me in, but after seeing his performance at Beacon Theatre last fall, I was a convert. I drank the neon-colored, glow-in-the-dark Kool-aid, and I do not regret it.

Before Sufjan and his 14+ band mates claimed the Prospect Park Bandshell stage last night (8/3), the one-man glam artist Diamond Rings (John O'Regan) took his turn. Like Sufjan, O'Regan's show is just as much about his attitude and aesthetic as it is about his music. Dressed in a glittering silver crown and eye make-up reminiscent of Ziggy Stardust, O'Reagan helped pump up the crowd with his upbeat synthesis of samples, drum machine beats, and live guitar/keys.

Though the rain ceased a bit during Diamond Ring's set, by the time Sufjan and his band began to play, it had begun to steadily fall once again. But in a movement of crowd solidarity, umbrellas disappeared one by one as people traded in comfort for better sightlines.

As if in an effort to ease old fans into the post-apocalyptic landscape of glow-in-the-dark electrical tape, Sufjan Stevens kicked off his second Celebrate Brooklyn show not with a new song, but with "Seven Swans" (as he did the night before). Of course, it wasn't long before the nine-minute song began to get raucous.

And in what was just the first of many times throughout the evening, Sufjan slipped into the role of spiritual guide, sage, and motivational speaker. "Oh you are fierce warriors," he said, surveying the sopping magnitude before him, "You have the patience and fortitude and strength."

Sufjan followed the more mellow opening number with a string of songs from The Age of Adz, breaking up the new material only slightly with "Enchanting Ghosts" from last year's over-shadowed but excellent All Delighted People EP. Like last fall's show at Beacon Theatre, the scene was ridiculous. Psychedelic projections, wild costumes (including massive white wings for "Seven Swans"), and the carefully choreographed moves of Jessica Dessner (the sister of Bryce and Aaron of The National) provided abundant visual stimulation.

"I'd like to apologize for being so melodramatic, but I knew you had the heart and strength and soul to take it," Sufjan said as if anticipating a backlash. "So if you're feeling a little bit wet and disenchanted, I encourage you to move your butt."

At times Stevens comes across as a parody of himself and a bit of a megalomaniac, teetering on the edge of sanity... and maybe he is, or maybe he's just channeling the eccentricities of others.

Toward the middle of his set, Stevens explained that the inspiration behind both the fantastical scene on stage and much of the music was an "amazing outsider artist" from Louisiana that he had started studying a few years ago named Royal Robertson. "I decided to use him as my muse [...] and I just really wanted to capture in the frenetic sense the sound of the universe. I wanted to sound my barbaric yawp above the rooftops. And so I threw away the acoustic guitar, and I threw away the banjo, and I decided to surround myself with noise. And then through Royal Robertson I was able to contextualize all this mess into a sort of beautiful pop pageant."

Sure, The Age of Adz is an indulgent, schizophrenic mess, but it's a marvelous mess--especially in a live setting. The neon colors, the flashing lights, the trilling flutes, and dancing girls--it all just works... if you open yourself up to it, that is. Luckily, with the steady rain and steep ticket price (which benefits the Celebrate Brooklyn series), this was no place for haters.

"Tonight we celebrate Brooklyn. We celebrate rain. We celebrate ourselves. We sing the body electric. Am I quoting too much Whitman? I celebrate myself. I sing myself [...] every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. These are your songs this is your show. Thanks for being here." And with that, he launched into "Impossible Soul."

By turns life affirming and heartbreaking, his sprawling opus was clearly the grand finale of the set. Stevens and friends pulled out all the stops--especially DM Stith (on backing vox and keys) and Cat Martino. Though she provided backing vocals for much of the show, Martino (who also sings with Sharon Van Etten) left her post at the back of the stage for a spirited, soulful duet with Stevens, proving that she is more than capable of being the leading lady. (Look for Martino's second solo album, Yr Not Alone this fall.)

After donning an elaborate golden headdress for the auto-tune portion of the song, Stevens re-emerged wearing a crazy balloon costume that would even be a bit much for George Clinton. Then out of nowhere, inflatable dancing men--the kind typically found in side-of-the-road displays--popped up, sending cheers throughout the soaked but ecstatic crowd. As if the scene on stage were not enough, large, clear beach balls began to circulate the crowd.

Stevens concluded the show with a three-song encore of older songs, including the simple, quiet love song "The Dress Looks Nice On You" and of course, "Chicago."

One thing's for sure. As Stevens sings himself in "I Want To Be Well," he's "not fucking around."

More pictures and setlist from the Wednesday show below...

--
Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens Set list
Seven Swans
Too Much
Age of Adz
I Walked
Get Real Get Right
Enchanting Ghost
Vesuvius
I Want to Be Well
Futile Devices
Impossible Soul

Encore
Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, IL
The Dress Looks Nice on You
Chicago
--

---

      

Comments (42)

hummuz

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 2:00 PM

OMG, THEY RAN OUT OF HUMMUS!

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 2:01 PM

It's like someone invented some Soul-sucking device, applied it to P-Funk, then cranked the Whiteboy-o-meter up for good measure.

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 2:06 PM

did people really dislike age of adz that much? i listened to it for the first time last week and thought it was awesome

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 2:08 PM

"ipad photographer?"

That is easily the most stupidest thing I have ever seen on BV. Who brings an iPad to a concert?

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 2:10 PM

wet moobs > wet churchies

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 2:13 PM

Christians like hummus?

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 2:17 PM

That setlist sucks. 10 songs plus plus encore? And so much Adzzzzz....

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 2:22 PM

I am gay for Cat Martino.

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 2:23 PM

Dawson's Creek rock :(

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 2:25 PM

Where did the huge-ass beach balls come from?! Those were insane.

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 2:25 PM

wow, a second set of pics from the sufjan brooklyn shows. lucky for us because they're different from the first night of shots ... how is that again?

same
shtick.

while the first night at least got my brightest diamond, who is far and away the best thing about these two nights, the second night got that shmuck who will be forgotten about by the time i press the submit button ... now.

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 2:26 PM

...no pita...

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 2:27 PM

No Pita...No Peace!

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 2:29 PM

no pita, no peas.

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 2:30 PM

haha...the 'stay fierce' guy. Epic suck.

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 2:32 PM

pita, please ....

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 2:50 PM

Too bad no Casmir Pulaski Day last night. That was amazing on Tuesday.

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 2:51 PM

2:26 = did not go, doesn't even care for Sufjan = white (boy) noise = la la la la i'm not listening to you, Jeffrey

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 2:53 PM

diamond rings played guitar like so original cool moves bro bye

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 3:17 PM

NPRwave

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 3:19 PM

Wearing lipstick does not make a lame-ass performer "reminiscent of Ziggy Stardust"

There is a major talent like Bowie and there are one billion hacks like "Diamond Rings"

Lazy blog writers need to wake the fuck up

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 3:20 PM

All commenters disparaging Sufjan suck. I was at the show Tuesday, and in my view it was an amazing performance.

"Illinoise" is a masterpiece, but Adz is still a fantastic album.

Posted by Dan | August 4, 2011 3:53 PM

3:53, Shut up Sufjan

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 3:54 PM

Joy. Pure joy. Concerts in the rain is my new favorite thing.

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 3:54 PM

I didn't realized they're still around. Who goes to those shows washed up people who also see Kings of Leon?

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 3:55 PM

Christian rock is so weak. Neon Christian rock is gayer than a Catholic priest.

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 4:01 PM

Whenever I read about Sufjan I can't help but be reminded of this Google search gem: http://www.lpsg.org/197910-sufjan-stevens.html

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 4:05 PM

Fuck you neon ... fuck you.

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 4:17 PM

hipsters in the rain

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 4:55 PM

3:55 - wat

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 6:40 PM

show was great! romantic, fun, delicious!

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 11:00 PM

I can't believe they ran out of hummus. lol

WTF?!?! lol

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 11:34 PM

The line at Mamoun's today was fucking insane.

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2011 11:58 PM

So Boy George goes by Diamond Rings Now?
And Sufjan is Mormon arm chair psychedelic pop rock?

Posted by Anonymous | August 5, 2011 12:43 AM

Its what happens when a tinge of Flaming Lips and Bjorks costume\stage antics met with too much Four Loko, pounds of fruity pebbles, neon, and crafts in Sufjans gangs belly projectiled all over the stage.

Posted by Anonymous | August 5, 2011 12:58 AM

gay christian assholes

Posted by Anonymous | August 5, 2011 1:02 AM

SIR GAGA !!! Em I right?

Posted by Anonymous | August 5, 2011 10:42 AM

"ipad photographer?"
"That is easily the most stupidest thing I have ever seen on BV. Who brings an iPad to a concert?"

This is now the SECOND time I've seen someone do this. First was at Paul Simon @ Webster. I'm dumbfounded.

Posted by Anonymous | August 5, 2011 11:38 AM

jacuzzi boyz are EVERYWHERE

Posted by Anonymous | August 5, 2011 3:40 PM

yeah freaking haters... why would someone hate him that much? what the fuck. i mean i would understand because before i got into him, i didnt really like it because it is kinda mellow but when i got high and listen to the lyrics and music, it all made sense that Sufjan is a fucking genius and unless you are retarded then you won't get how wonderfuckingful his music is.

Posted by Raisin | August 10, 2011 11:23 AM

Leave a Comment