“I’m the majesty songbird and this is the butterfly brigade,” says Sufjan Stevens as he steps onto the stage. They’re all wearing wings, gossamer, colorful and engineered (at least in Sufjan’s case) to beat slowly as he rocks back and forth on stage.
The Sufjan Stevens show at the Wiltern last week (yes, I’ve been too busy to post this) was one of the better shows I’ve seen in a while. I’ll be honest, I haven’t been giving Sufjan the love lately. It’s been well over a year since I was in full obsess mode and the newest offering, “Avalanche,” is a nice companion to “Illinois,” but it fails to do much more than augment the original. And I’d already moved well on to other obsessions in the mean time. But this show brings is all back for me.
He plays with a sizable group of musicians, including a string section, two trumpets, a trombone, a piano and a full band accompaniment. It’s the ideal way to hear him because he’s able to provide the full, rich detail of the album in a live setting. And when it’s necessary to scale down the production as in, say, the “Seven Swans” material, the orchestra scales back.
It’s surprising that he spends as much time as he does on that album, given the wealth of material he’s put out since. I counted at least five tracks from “Swans.” But the Illinois stuff is what brings down the house. I’m more obsessed with “The Predatory Wasp…” than is probably healthy, so it helps that we go there. “Tha Tallest Man, The Broadest Shoulders” works very well, and he even brings the corwd down to a hush with “Casimir Pulaski Day” and “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” The former, however, elicits a reaction from Maria, who, like me, finds herself loving the Sufjan in spite of his overt spirituality. We like to fantasize that he’s non-denominational.
The high point is probably “The Man of Metropolis…” which gets everyone excited, not just because of the song itself, which is uptempo and upbeat, but because stage hands hurl a couple dozen inflatable Supermen into the audience, proving the age old truism: Los Angeles plus inflatable Supermen equals Pandemonium.
Well, wait a second. This isn’t a Tool show. Perhaps pandemonium is too strong a word. But considering the soft-spoken, soft-skinned crowd, anything above “sessile” seems like pandemonium.
Photo Credit: InSinU8. Thanks!
Also, nice photo set at Flickr: link