Entries tagged with: 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...
photos by Amanda Hatfield, words by Andrew Sacher
Sufjan Stevens and his elaborate band walked out onto a dark stage at Prospect Park last night (8/2), masked by a black transparent screen. They slowly began the delicate "Seven Swans" as dim light patterns swelled on the screen. Where soft piano and drums usually enter the song, Sufjan's entire band erupted into a heap of crashing chords as the black screen rose and revealed the neon-coated collective of musicians, backup singers, dancers, and Sufjan Stevens flapping a pair of massive bird wings. Sufjan and his band then proceeded to play a set of mostly Age of Adz material. Last night's and tonight's Celebrate Brooklyn shows are the last of the Adz tour.
They launched into the glitchy pop of "Too Much" and "Age of Adz" complete with a frenzy of futuristic visuals and carefully choreographed moves from Sufjan and his dancers/backup singers. After about 15 minutes of the orchestral glitchy awesomeness, Sufjan gave the crowd some "folk relief." He told us that he's still a folk musician at heart and played "Heirloom" off the All Delighted People EP, which was released shortly before Age of Adz last year. He took a moment to tell us about the inspiration for the album and all of the corresponding visuals, outfits, and dancing. He told us that he discovered the work of folk artist/self-proclaimed prophet Royal Robertson, and was influenced by his material. He described Royal's work as the portrayal of visions he had throughout his life, and mentioned that he also faced many struggles within himself, as all of us do. Sufjan said that much of the album was a tribute to Royal, his artwork, and his ideas, and explores themes like inner space, outer space, and the body.
As Sufjan and his band were nearing the end of the set, they delivered the one-two punch of "Vesuvius" and "I Want To Be Well," and after quieting down with album opener "Futile Devices," they sent the show into the most epic part of the night with the 25-minute album closer "Impossible Soul." The song opened with Sufjan accompanied by his piano and voice and slowly built into a layered piece that evolved into the portion sung by Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond.
Although Shara was there (because she opened the show), I'm pretty sure it was one of Sufjan's backup singers who handled her part, though it was hard to tell because they were wearing a mask covered in light bulbs. As she sang, the black screen dropped once again, swirling light patterns drenched the stage and a light tunnel zeroed in on the singer and her light-up mask. After that mesmerizing section drifted off into ambiance and the stage went black once again, Sufjan appeared front and center in a large silver mask with a diamond shaped backdrop behind him and delivered the exaggerated auto-tuned vocals of the song's third section. As glitch hop beats entered the song and the robotic Sufjan left the stage, lights sprung up again and Sufjan's backup dancers, now in neon green t-shirts, neon pink shorts, leggings, and sideways pink hats, appeared at the front of the stage singing lead vocals to the song's epic refrain. After hitting the first round of "it's not so impossible"s, an indecipherable Sufan returned, running onto the stage covered in balloons and feathers and joined in on lead vocals. As the stage became a balloon-covered sing-along dance party, clear beach balls were propelled into the audience as long inflatable creatures shot up in front of the stage, turning the entire prospect park into into a huge party. Once the party died down and the song arrangements fizzled out, Sufjan returned to the front of the stage with only an acoustic guitar and sang the wispy ending of the song, where he plays off the refrain's lyrics to create what could be a stand-alone song in Sufjan's style of folk.
After making such a mess, Sufjan thanked the crowd and he and his band left the stage. He shortly returned for a three-song encore of Illinoise material. It's really hard to follow the end of that set with anything, but it's also pretty hard to turn down Sufjan Stevens playing "UFO," "Casmir Pulaski Day," and "Chicago."
My Brightest Diamond (aka Shara Worden) opened the show with a strong set of mostly songs off her upcoming album All Things Will Unwind, quirky dancing, and also an awesome outfit. She wore a bright green dress and a headdress of something resembling peacock feathers. She switched between guitar, ukulele, keyboard, autoharp, and other instruments as she and her band delivered one great song after another, including the recently released single "Reaching Through to the Other Side." Shara told a story during her set of seeing a Laurie Anderson show about the death of her mother, being extremely touched by it, and wondering if she'd ever learn to love. She told us that she eventually talked to Laurie and asked her if she'd ever learn to love. Laurie told her that it takes a lifetime to learn to love, which Shara then wrote a song about. She played it for us. It aptly opens with the line, "It takes a lifetime to learn how to love." Shara and her band also played a cover of "Tainted Love," which she recorded for the Guilt by Association Vol. 2 compilation, before her band left the stage and she ended the set with another new song solo with guitar and vocals.
More pictures, videos, and setlist from the first show below...
Sufjan at Bowery Ballroom in 2009 (more by Vincent Cornelli)
today in NYC
* Chris Cochrane @ Barbes
* Yellow Tears @ The Stone
* The Moon Show @ Union Pool
* Slavic Soul Party @ Barbes
* Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra
* The Sugarhill Gang @ Tappen Park
* Morning After Girls @ Pete's Candy Store
* Don Dietrich, C. Spencer Yeh @ The Stone
* Tell Your Friends w/ Sean Bones @ Lolita Bar
* Aphonia, Kids At Risk, Cassette Kids, Honduras @ Pianos
* Typhoon, Lady Lamb The Beekeeper @ Mercury Lounge
* The Ettes, Heavy Cream, Hans Condor @ Mercury Lounge
* Tinie Tempah, Action Bronson, Hezekiah, STS, Los @ S.O.B.'s
* Widowspeak, Hoop Dreams, Crinkles, Ex Cops @ Glasslands
* Intuitions, Ohnomoon, The Fear and Trembling @ Bruar Falls
* Sufjan Stevens, My Brightest Diamond @ Prospect Park Bandshell
* Todd Barry, Brent Weinbach, and more at Sweet @ Ella Lounge
* The Atomic Bitchwax, Cycle of Pain, Rob Cantrell @ The Delancey
* Death Cab For Cutie, Frightened Rabbit @ Williamsburg Waterfront
* Alison Krauss & Union Station, Jerry Douglas, Dawes @ Beacon Theatre
* Hannis Brown, Spectre Folk, Sands, Sleeping Bag @ Cameo Gallery
* McCoy Tyner Quintet featuring Ravi Coltrane & Gary Bartz @ Blue Note
* The CCB Reggae All-Stars (Hudson Square Music & Wine Festival) @ City Winery
* Matana Roberts, Ryan Sawyer, Peter Evans, Nate Wooley, Ramble Tamble @ Zebulon
* Bird Call, Johanna &The Dusty Floor, Former Belle, HolidayHoliday @ Knitting Factory
* Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, Jessie & the Toy Boys, and Nervo @ Nassau Coliseum
* Weingarten/Bieber Duo, Run-On Sunshine, Moonmen On The Moon, Man, Dave Neff @ Cake Shop
* The Sway Machinery, Awesome Tapes from Africa, Flight Simulation with John Bollinger @ 92YTribeca
* Co La, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Emily Reo, Birthdays, Radiator Girls, Bananas Symphony @ Shea Stadium
The Sway Machinery, who have an album out on the now defunct JDub Records and who play 92YTribeca tonight, have a fan in Henry Rollins via Ian Mackaye. Check out Henry playing The Sway Machinery on his radio show on KCRW below.
My Morning Jacket have a new video for "Holdin on to Black Metal." Check it out below
The McCoy Tyner Quintet play their first of three nights at the Blue Note tonight. They play two sets each night at 8 PM and 10:30 PM.
Widowspeak play their record release show at Glasslands tonight for their self titled debut, which comes out next week on Captured Tracks.
Mostly Mozart Festival begins tonight and continues through August 27. The festival features the music of Mozart (believe it or not).
Lady Lamb the Beekeeper and Typhoon, who play Mercury tonight, also play Littlefield tomorow (8/3) with Diamond Doves.
Sufjan Stevens plays his first of two Celebrate Brooklyn shows tonight in Prospect Park. My Brightest Diamond opens the show tonight and Diamond Rings will do so tomorrow. These are the last two shows on his neon infested Age of Adz tour, so don't forget to bring your neon. Watch the concert trailer for the Prospect Park shows below.
members of Brooklyn Philharmonic at the Seaport in 2010 (more by Chris La Putt)
The 2011-2012 season for The Brooklyn Philharmonic has been announced and you can browse the full schedule below or at that site, but we'll highlight a bit.
Mos Def is presenting works at the Season Preview Concert I on October 8 and the Season Preview Concert II on October 12. Mos Def's work will then also be presented as part of the Bed-Stuy Series on June 9, 2012. All three of events are free.
Works by Sufjan Stevens will be presented at The Downtown Brooklyn Series on March 23 and 24. Tickets for that series are $20. Tickets for the public can be acquired by calling the Brooklyn Phil Box Office at 646-397-2765.
Throughout the season works will also be presented from a range of artists including Beethoven, Bernstein, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Duke Ellington, Brahms, Scott Joplin, Tchaikovsky, and others.
Brooklyn Philharmonic are celebrating Alan Pierson's debut conducting the orchestra in partnership with Mark Morris Dance Group on Thursday (7/28 aka TONIGHT) at Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park. Admission is free and doors are at 8 PM.
Sufjan also has upcoming Prospect Park shows.
Full 2011-2012 Brooklyn Phil schedule below...
Diamond Rings at Europa in June (more by Diana Wong)
As mentioned, My Brightest Diamond opens the first (8/2) of two Sufjan Steven shows at Prospect Park in August. Historically, this is an excellent match-up and her set should suit the show perfectly. Unfortunately, it is sold out. Sufjan's second show (8/3) now has an opener too though, and the addition suits Sufjan's new neon coated electronica (and diamond fetish) pretty well. It's Diamond Rings. Tickets for that show are still available, and we have a pair you can win. Details below.
The website "After Elton" asked Diamond Rings aka John O to describe his fanbase. This is what he said:
"It's really diverse. Short of bugging your own friends to come out and see you, after that it's out of my hands by and large who comes to my show. I can only make the music I want to make, and present the image that I feel represents me and hope that the right people get it. Not that there's wrong people. People who come to my shows are all over the place. Kids in high school, 20 something downtown folks like me, people my parents' age, which is really cool. It's all over the place. I'm trying to reach as many people as I can. I want to try and make the music and put on the kind of show that allows anyone to feel like they can come and express themselves and be themselves and be safe and have fun. I would be really worried if I had a demographic niche and everyone were the same that comes to my show."Diamond Rings will return in October during their tour with Twin Shadow. Updated dates, contest details, and the song "Give It Up" which features vocals by Austra's Katie Stelmanis, below...
photos by Amanda Hatfield words by Zach Pollack
Classical, pop-tinged orchestral group yMusic kicked off the second to last concert of the summer season at Castle Clinton in Battery Park as part of the River to River Festival last night (7/7). The six-players rotated on a variety of instruments including trumpet, viola, clarinet, and violin, possibly improvising as they took cues off of each other.
yMusic stuck around to back My Brightest Diamond (aka Shara Worden) as she took the stage around 7:30PM. Initially seeming shy and reserved, those notions of her were immediately shattered as she opened her mouth to sing. With a large vocal range in her arsenal, Shara's voice is as much of an instrument as the ones the orchestra behind her were using.
Breaking out a harpsichord, Shara and yMusic, backed by drummer Brian Wolfe, played a sonically expansive new track titled, "Escape Routes" off MBD's new chamber pop album LP All Things Will Unwind. The LP will arrive on October 18th via her longtime label Asthmatic Kitty, and they played in its entirety at the NYC show according to a note on Shara's website (though not in the album order). This will mark Shara's third LP under the moniker, and from the taste of what we received at Castle Clinton, it draws strong comparisons to Edith Piaf, Joanna Newsom and label-mate/collaborator Sufjan Stevens. Grab a taste via the MP3 from the album above. Check out the whole tracklist and cover art below.
Between performing cuts off of her new album, Shara donned a creepy mask while yMusic performed instrumental pieces that Shara composed for them and dancer Jessica Dessner who was there dancing to them. Late in her hour-long set Shara performed the track "High Low Middle" which had a New Orleans-feel to it, and had the entire audience engaged in endless hand claps. The group closed out their amazing performance at Castle Clinton by playing new song "Everything Is In Line".
My Brightest Diamond has sporadic dates throughout the summer, including an opening slot for Sufjan Stevens at his first of two nights at the Prospect Park Bandshell (August 2nd & 3rd).
Sufjan also has a new video for "Get Real Get Right." Check that out, along with more pictures from the My Brightest Diamond show, and her album artwork below...
DOWNLOAD: Sufjan Stevens - Get Real, Get Right (MP3)
Sufjan Stevens' Age of Adz show @ Beacon Theater (more by David Andrako)
As previously mentioned, the two Sufjan Stevens Prospect Park shows will be your last chance to experience the AGE OF ADZ tour in all its neon glory. The August 2nd show is still sold out, but tickets are still available for the show on August 3rd. We also have a pair you can win to the second show. Details on how, and a trailer that the Asthmatic Kitty team created for the shows (in which you are encouraged to bring neon, gaff tape and your dancing shoes), below...
Sufjan Stevens @ Beacon Theater in 2010 (more by David Andrako)
Tickets are now on etix/artist presale (password = heirloom) for the just-added Sufjan Stevens show in Prospect Park. The Venue/AEG presale starts on Ticketmaster on Thursday at 10am. Sufjan's label Asthmatic Kitty says, "This will be your last chance to see the Adz tour in all its bright, balloony glory!"
Sufjan Stevens at Beacon Theater (more by David Andrako)
Tickets for Sufjan Steven's August 2nd's appearance at the Prospect Park Bandshell have flown away. Luckily, the notorious S.O.O.F. will bless the park with a second date on the following night: August 3rd at Prospect Park Bandshell. Tickets for the new Brooklyn show go on AEG/venue presale at 10AM on Thursday (6/17) and noon on Friday (6/17). No word on openers (though we think My Brightest Diamond is opening the first night). We'll keep you posted.
In other SOOF related news, IFC is currently streaming a clip from the film Make:
Directors Scott Ogden and Malcolm Hearn's documentary, "MAKE," is about four artists on the furthest fringes of our society. Isolated by their disabilities, they find a voice and try to make sense of a world that shuns them, through incredible works of art. These are the characters that inspired Sufjan Stevens' album, "The Age of Adz." Stevens, who called the film "a beautiful and insightful look at the sublime task of making art when nothing will else do," based his album's narrative specifically on the life and apocalyptic work of the schizophrenic artist, Prophet Royal Robertson featured in "MAKE."The film's screening and release party will happen at the American Folk Art Museum on June 17th (RSVP info at the link). Screenings happen at 1:00, 3:00, 4:30 & 5:45 pm in the auditorium (lower level 1). The reception is 5:30-8:30 pm in the atrium, with live music by Takka Takka.
..."MAKE" includes a soundtrack with original compositions from Sufjan Stevens and Marc Bianchi (Her Space Holiday), along with music by Jim Guthrie, Oneida, Tommy Guerrero, and Au Revoir Simone.
Check out the 17 minute clip below....
My Brightest Diamond at Bowery Ballroom in 2010 (more by Chris La Putt)
Frequent Sufjan Stevens-collaborator (and now mother) Shara Worden aka My Brightest Diamond is opening for Sufjan at his previously announced Prospect Park show on August 2. Worden recorded vocals on the album epic "Impossible Soul" off Sufjan's The Age of Adz last year. Hopefully she'll come out and play it with him in Brooklyn. Tickets are still available.
My Brightest Diamond, who is busy working on a new album, also plays a free Castle Clinton show in NYC on July 7. Meanwhile she heads to Amsterdam for some performances of the Long Count. All dates are listed below.
Worden provided guest vocals on the recently released The Only She Chapters by Prefuse 73, who just released an EP with The Flaming Lips. Psych Explorations of the Future Heart has YouTube streams of all four songs. Those in Oklahoma can buy a 12" at Guestroom Records.
Check out a new(ish) My Brightest Diamond video and more of her dates below...
"In 2004, Sounds Familyre released Sufjan Stevens' Seven Swans. And [last week], micro-label On Joyful Wings released Sevens Swans Reimagined. They've gathered quite the cabal of artists who have managed to dive into the Seven Swans material and fish from it some intriguing interpretations of the 2004 record. Appearances include Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Unwed Sailor, Inlets, and the David Crowder Band, but also our own Half-handed Cloud, Shannon Stephens, and DM Stith. It's quite good!Sevens Swans Reimagined contributor DM Stith will be touring Europe with Sufjan Stevens himself in late April and May And Sufjan, who last played headlining shows in NYC as part of his November tour, has a NYC show coming up too! He will headline the Prospect Park Bandshell in Brooklyn on August 2nd! Tickets to the Celebrate Brooklyn benefit go on sale Friday at noon.
Profits from the album benefit the Susan G. Komen For The Cure breast cancer foundation." - Asthmatic Kitty
Stream Sevens Swans Reimagined in full below....
photos by David Andrako
"Sufjan did not disappoint us. He came, he played banjo and sang We Were Here, acting in his self-effacing way just any other hired musician. It was a wonderful moment and a delightful surprise. But I don't want to sell Clogs short. The concert was delightful even before Sufjan arrived onstage.More pictures from the Saturday show, and the full setlist, below...
Clogs put on a beautiful show as part of the excellent Ecstatic Music Festival. Wonderfully quirky vocalist Shara Worden, in an extremely colorful ensemble, joined Clogs to sing and play some guitar on several tunes from the latest Clogs album, The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton, on which she appears. The band also did some older tunes and a new song cycle, called Unattended Shadow, by the band's violist, Padma Newsome. (Clogs' lineup is rounded out by Rachael Elliott on bassoon and Thomas Kozumplik on percussion.)
One of the real treats of the evening, though, was the band's interaction with the fabulous Brooklyn Youth Chorus. They performed guitarist Bryce Dessner's new Tour Eiffel, which was premiered at the Nico Muhly Tell the Way show at St. Ann's Warehouse early in February."
[Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone]
Shara, Sufjan & Bryce @ the Bell House (more by David Andrako)
Tickets are still on sale for Saturday's Clogs/Brooklyn Youth Chorus Ecstatic Music Festival show that Shara Worden (and Sufjan Stevens) is also playing. "The set list includes works from recent Clogs albums as well as a new piece from Bryce Dessner (The National) and a world premiere by Padma Newsome."
Video of Friday night's episode of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, below...
words by David Andrako
night 1 (more)
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...
photos by David Andrako
With various videos and projections displayed on a backdrop behind the 11-piece band, a contingent of three back-up dancer-singers, and a slew of costume changes (mostly in the way of jackets and headgear, and yards of what appeared to be reflective tape), this show was not the Sufjan you might have expected -- Sufjan himself described the performance as "Avatar meets Cats on Ice." Sufjan stuck to the synthesizer and keyboard during most of the new songs, often joining the backup dancers. It's a shame, however, that Sufjan's development as a multi-media artist has scaled back the other elements that used to be staples of his performance. The best parts of "The Age of Adz," and the best parts of the night, were when Sufjan did what he does best: guitar, vocals, banjo. Sadly, though, even during "Chicago," Sufjan did not even touch his guitar. Perhaps as a concession to Sufjan purists and diehard fans, however, the night ended with "Casimir Pulaski Day," "To Be Alone With You" and "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." in succession, bringing the audience to their feet collectively amidst a shower of beach balls and balloons. -[Trust Me On This]Sufjan Stevens played the first of his two NYC shows at Beacon Theater last night (11/14). The second, and final show on his North American tour for The Age of Adz, happens tonight, Monday, 11/15.
You can also catch Sufjan on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on Friday, 11/19, either on TV or in person if you are lucky enough to win a spot on the "Band Bench".
Soof's tourmate, labelmate and friend, DM Stith opened the sold out show. More pictures, the Sunday setlist, and a video below...
photos by Josh Darr
Sufjan Stevens is now on tour in support of his new album The Age of Adz. That tour, which ends with two shows in NYC, stopped by the Chicago Theatre in Chicago on Friday night. Some pictures from that show are in this post. They continue, with the setlist, below...
"Sufjan Stevens is set to release The Age of Adz, his first full length collection of original songs in five years, October 12 on Asthmatic Kitty Records. The album is available for pre-order now until September 25, with pre-orders receiving music digitally two weeks prior to the physical release date. The Age of Adz comes on the heels of Stevens' All Delighted People EP, available for purchase now from most digital stores, and his 2009 film and musical suite The BQE. Stevens is planning a North American tour of large, elegant venues-including two nights at New York's fabled Beacon Theatre and The Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles-in support of the new record. With a dozen dates already sold out, Stevens will tour with his large ensemble performing alongside projections. "The retun of Sufjan Stevens started with a tour announcement which was followed by an instantly-available EP, and now this.
More album information including the tracklist (the 11th song on the album is over 25 minutes long), along with updated tour dates that list which shows are sold out (tickets are still available for Philly), below...
Asthmatic Kitty Records is releasing Sufjan Stevens' new EP All Delighted People today exclusively via http://sufjanstevens.bandcamp.com for $5.00. Bandcamp is also offering a free stream of the EP. On August 23 the EP will be available for purchase from most digital stores and will appear on CD and vinyl later this year. All Delighted People includes two versions of the title track which debuted on Sufjan's 2009 tour along with six other new songs. The collection is Sufjan's first original song-oriented material since 2006. Included on the EP is the first recording of live-show mainstay "The Owl and the Tanager" and the elegiac "Djohariah." Along with the guitars, piano and banjo that characterize his previous recordings, choirs, strings and brass adorn the melodies. Please see below for track listing."So Sufjan will have new material after all when he goes on tour in October. EP cover art above, trackilst below...
Sufjan Stevens @ Bowery Ballroom in 2009 (more by Vincent Cornelli)
Steve Louie's tickets
Dear Sufjan Stevens Fan,Tickets are now on pre-sale for the Massive Attack and Thievery Corporation shows happening at the Beacon Theatre in October. You can use an AmEx or enter this password: TMMATC or this password: OMMATC. General sale starts Friday at 11am.
Congratulations on successfully purchasing presale tickets to see Sufjan Stevens at Beacon Theatre on Nov 14!
As you may have already noticed, seat locations were not disclosed during the special fan presale. Seating will be assigned within the next 14 days in the order that tickets were purchased; a new order confirmation email will be sent to you to confirm the location of your seats.
If you are receiving this email, your ticket purchase has been confirmed and is guaranteed. As long as all of your tickets were placed together on the same order, all of your seats will be together.
If you have not received your new order confirmation email verifying the exact location of your seats within two weeks, please reply to this email for further assistance.
Thanks for participating in the Sufjan Stevens presale! We hope you enjoy the show!
eTix Customer Support
$3.00 tickets are now on sale for the Wooden Shjips shows at Music Hall of Williamsburg ("All tickets and all drinks only $3 in honor of our 3 year anniversary!").
Sufjan Stevens is back and going on tour this fall. Kicking things off on October 12th in Montreal, he'll end up back in NYC for two shows at Beacon Theatre on November 14th and 15th. Tickets for all shows go on pre-sale Tuesday at 1pm EST. "Sales for some theaters will begin on Friday, August 13th, while others will start later. To avoid scalping, there is a 4 person ticket limit, and the first 20 rows of seats are WILL CALL ONLY."
All dates below...
It's hard to believe that The National headlined last night at Radio City Music Hall (they were the opener a few years ago when the Arcade Fire played there) and harder to believe that the massive space sold out. Sure, their last two albums have done especially well, but really? Radio City? I mean Lady Gaga is playing there in July. In "Little Faith," Matt Berninger sings, "I know what you think. You're waiting for Radio City to sink." Yes, ominous indeed.
The evening began with a rousing set by The Antlers. As if to echo the themes of hospitals, sickness, and funerals found in their solid debut, Hospice, white flowers decorated the stage. The Antlers' performance was bolstered by the addition of a two-man brass section (courtesy of Tim Cronin and Jon Natchez) and lovely female vocalist Sharon Van Etten. They played an extended version of the standout track "Sylvia" in addition to an unnamed new song. After playing a short string of songs from Hospice roughly in chronological order, The Antlers concluded their set with "Wake."
Walking into Radio City, I admit that the prospect of seeing two praise-worthy bands in such a huge space had me both exhilarated and fearful. Would they be able to master the space and overcome the obstacles posed by a seated show? How would they make the experience personal?
Though majestic, the space was a bit stifling. But to help cut down on the formality of a seated show, the majority of the orchestra section stood up when the band walked on stage and remained standing for the entirety of the evening. The National's front man, Matt Berninger, hopped off the stage to cavort with the audience in front during the third song, "Bloodbuzz Ohio." Sure, he only stayed down there for a few seconds, but it boded well for the rest of the show. The third wall came crashing down early.
The National also had some additional musicians on stage to help fill out their sound. Throughout the show, a small brass section again consisting of a trumpet and trombone contributed to the mix. Additional treats came on the seventh song, "Squalor Victoria," when a string section walked on stage. After that, it got almost ridiculous. St. Vincent's Annie Clark hopped on the piano for "Vanderlye Crybaby Geeks" and shared backing vocal responsibilities with Sufjan Stevens for the following song, "Afraid of Everyone." "I'm sorry they're so plain looking. We try to set a standard," Berninger wryly joked. "I wish we could have them on stage all night," replied a Dessner brother.
But the real magic happened during "Abel." At least, it did for me. Berninger jumped off the stage once again and started pulling that oh-so-long mic chord behind him as he walked up the aisle in the theatre. For a few seconds, I lost sight of him. And then, there he was, right outside my row. And then... what? Berninger started climbing over the seats and ended up stumbling right into Row WW, Seat 409 - my seat. As he stood haphazardly balanced on the seat behind me, he leaned over, grabbed my shoulder to steady himself and put the mic right in my face as he sang. And, though I know nearly all of the lyrics to their songs and the chorus to "Abel" in particular is embarrassingly simple, I admit I froze a little and was too stunned to sing along. After my moment had passed, Berninger continued on his way, climbing over the seat in front of me and then heading back to the stage. It's almost as if he knew that this was only going to be a one-paragraph review (since I recently wrote a lengthy one for the BAM show) and wanted to spice it up. After Berninger fled the scene, BrooklynVegan photographer Matt Eisman and I stared at each other in disbelief. Did that just happen?
The show continued with a few more songs and a solid four-song encore that (of course) included "Mr. November". This time when he wandered into the crowd, Berninger climbed the stairs to the first tier of the balcony where people encircled him and furiously sang along. Berninger proceded to walk to the far side of the balcony and back down again, his mic chord dangling over the crowd in the orchestra section below. After over an hour and a half of play, The National concluded their encore with "Terrible Love."
More pictures, a video and the setlists from Radio City, below...
words by Rachel Kowal, photos by Getty Images for American Express
All week, The National has sponsored nightly events at their "High Violet Annex" to celebrate the release of their highly anticipated fifth album, High Violet. On Friday they even performed a set of National songs at the space. Saturday night's sold-out "ZYNC from American Express Presents The National to Benefit Red Hot" show at BAM capped off the week's festivities which started earlier the same evening at the Annex where 70-or-so lucky attendees were, unexpectedly, given tickets to the BAM show and then bussed to the Brooklyn venue to see the show...
the bus @ BAM
The BAM show began with a brief behind-the-scenes video about their recording process, and then the band launched into "Mistaken for Strangers" and then played a string of new songs. Though the National is technically a quintet, as many as nine additional people joined them on stage to play a variety of string and brass instruments. Sufjan Stevens joined the band to sing backing vocals (like he did on Letterman) on a handful of songs. Sometimes National-members Padma Newsome and Thomas Bartlett (Doveman) made a rare appearance together on stage (usually its one or the other as a member of the band). The biggest surprise band member of the night was the Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry who sang backup and played a variety of instruments throughout the set. Richard, Sufjan and Thomas all also contributed to High Violet which is out now.
With its ornate molding, dramatic curtains, and theater-like seating, BAM may be a bit of an odd choice to host what is essentially a rock show, but the beautiful space complimented the dapperly dressed band and gave them enough room to spread out on stage. Possibly sensing that something was not quite right, lead singer Matt Berninger hopped off the stage and began pulling people up into a standing position early into the show.
Throughout the show, Berninger was a sight to behold. One moment, he'd take a sip of white wine and sing softly into the mic stand and the next, he's wildly pacing back and forth on stage with his head down, pounding his hands together like a mad man. The contrast between Berninger's smooth baritone voice and his manic behavior makes for a dynamic performance. During the four-song encore, Berninger leapt off stage again and rushed the audience in the orchestra section. With his impossibly long mic chord trailing behind him, Berninger climbed desperately over anything in his path - be it chairs or people. From the middle of a row, he stood recklessly on a chair, screaming the chorus to "Mr. November" into the faces of ecstatic fans.
When all was said and done, The National played the entirety of High Violet in addition to a number of older songs. Film directors D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus were on hand to direct the live webcast of the concert that was happening on YouTube (the band addressed the Internet audience a few times), and which you can still watch there (some videos below too).
After the show, a fancy ZYNC-sponsored afterparty was held around the corner at One Hanson Place, aka the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower, downstairs in the old bank's bottom floor (now used as an event space). The National, their friends and associates, partied until late with an invite-only crowd that also included members of Grizzly Bear and Beirut, and some celebrities who had attended the show (like Julia Stiles). And there was a lot to party about - recently completed Europe tour and a week of festivities in NYC aside - High Violet is selling really well too. More pictures from the show and the afterparty, with the setlist and some videos below...