September 07, 2015
We like to stay abreast of all events be we involved or not. To this end, Henry was lucky enough to check out top music act Sufjan Stevens as he performed at the Brighton Dome.
It’s been four years since I last sat down to enjoy Sufjan Stevens at the Brighton Dome. On that occasion, he was promoting The Age of Adz, a techno-laden album that was a far cry from my own personal favourite album of his, Illinois. Even so, it was a fantastic musical experience, with Sufjan Stevens playing the album in its entirety, including the epic Impossible Soul, which a marvellous audience member thought to film. I’ve included the video below because to be honest, it’s rather entertaining to skip through as various colours and sounds permeate your computer screen and speakers. And then—Is that a head dress? Yes it is. It was unlike anything I’d seen before or since and I’d vowed to see Sufjan Stevens once more the next time he toured.
With the release of Carrie and Lowell, it was Sufjan Stevens back on strings, singing a series of songs each more melancholic than the last. His parents had died as he set down to record the album and this is eminently clear in each and every tune. “Now I’m drunk and afraid, wishing the world would go away,” he sings on Eugene, “What’s the point of singing songs if they’ll never even hear you?” Such sadness is ever present in the Brighton Dome that evening as Sufjan works his way through the entire album and an evidently stunned crowd respond with huge applause after being lulled into such an emotional but beautiful state in drawn out five minutes intervals.
From a production point of view too, the evening is nothing short of superb with various projections playing behind Sufjan Stevens and his band throughout; children playing on the beach and other images that one may recognise from the liner notes of Carrie & Lowell. Interspersed amongst the album tracks are a couple of tunes from previous albums; The Owl and the Tanager makes an appearance from his All Delighted People EP whilst Vesuvius from The Age of Adz also gets an airing ahead of Blue Bucket of Gold to end the more thoughtful, powerful half of the set.
After a standing ovation and a desperate call for more, Sufjan returns with a cap and banjo, finally speaking to the crowd about returning to Brighton and once more enjoying the city and the seaside. He relates an anecdote about his late parents being a little more eccentric than most, adopting any and all sickly animals and having their past lives read. It’s an interesting aside and it’s clear to see just where Sufjan managed to find the material for his songs.
Throughout the encore, the mood is palpably lighter and more party-inspired. He plays Casimir Pulaski Day from Illinois to the delight of the crowd before ending the set once and for all with a striped back version of perhaps his most well-known song, Chicago. It’s unfair to give all the credit to Sufjan Stevens for the evening as the four members of his band are clearly just as talented, whilst the lighting and projection are stunning. But he is of course the name on everyone’s lips as we leave well aware that once again we have experienced something special. If we all have to wait another four years for a new tour then 2019 cannot come soon enough and it has to be said, the Brighton Dome will provide the perfect venue.
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By Henry Fosdike