“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. “
Wednesday night (8/03) I was lucky enough to see Sufjan Stevens perform as part of the annual summer arts festival, Celebrate Brooklyn. Prospect Park’s Bandshell was filled to the brim with Williamsburg hipsters, Manhattan scenesters, and randos like me. This was the second date for Stevens, who played the night before to a sold out bandshell. I was so glad they added a second date even though, pitifully, I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. Sufjan opened with “Seven Swans” from Seven Swans. Following that he thanked us for “coming out in nature”, as it poured for the length of show. I was especially disappointed because the doobie I had brought proved unlightable after a while and I could have definitely been more buzzed.
The show was really an audio-visual experience. The backing videos were supplemented by a projected silk screen almost that was lowered in between the performer and the audience. The art was especially trippy for Age of Adz (which was amazing), Too Much, and Impossible Soul, (we’ll get to that one). His set list mostly consisted of his newest album with some old classics thrown in there like Seven Swans, and The Dress Looks Nice on You. I was disappointed that he didn’t play of my favorites, like To Be Alone With You and All of the Trees in the Field Will Clap Their Hands, but I did leave before the Encore ended so maybe he did (I did miss Chicago, as it was the last song of the Encore, so sad).
Sufjan Stevens himself is a lot crazier in person that I thought. He talks like a Buddhist, psychonaut; speaking of unity, other life, and bullshit haha. Just sounds like he’s done a whole lotta drugs. Regardless, his voice is something unreal live, it is just as good, or better than his recordings. My favorite vocal performance of the night was Futile Devices, mostly because you could hear his voice so clearly because of the lack of complex instrumentation, which is found on most tracks on this album. One drawback of the show was that his songs on Adz are so loud with noise that it was difficult to hear his great voice through all of it. At one point you couldn’t hear him at all because he, adorably, forgot the lyrics to I Walked. After he performed Age of Adz, he described it as an apocalyptic love song, and then apologized for being melodramatic.
I was happy to hear I Want to Be Well; I love the defiant-ness at the end of that song, and it was just as powerful live. He, of course ended with his 25-minute marathon of a song, Impossible Soul, where he had at least three costume changes alone. I put this song on my bucket list to see live and I never thought it would actual happen. Now I sound like the dramatic one, but I was so happy to be seeing it I thought I was gonna cry. The autotune, second part of the song (which has like four or five different parts), was so cool to see; Sufjan had changed into an abstract astronaut suit and was singing through the helmet (see pictures). (The whole night, his crew and him were decked out in neon taped outfits, foil, and feathers). It was a great ending for the show, and sealed it for me as one of the best shows I’ve seen. It was romantic, impressive, overwhelming, all-consuming, all around captivating. Interestingly enough, I thought I was actually going to enjoy the show more, but I think that had to do with not being able to share in the experience and Sufjan’s genius with someone else. But if you think about it, like Sufjan said “I didn’t create this music alone, we’re all part of it”; I shared it with a lot more people then I could imagine.
*pictures do not belong to me (as mine were super shitty), I borrowed them from Brooklyn Vegan :p