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Sufjan Stevens played his tour-ending 2nd NYC show @ Beacon Theatre (videos & setlist)

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…

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


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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