MUSIC | Sufjan Stevens enchants the Orpheum—loudly

Photos by Meredith Westin

A brisk fall evening seems like a perfect time to cozy up to several hundred other people and be serenaded by Sufjan Stevens's characteristically bittersweet crooning and wistful banjo plucking—but this Saturday, Stevens had other plans.

Stevens warned the crowd at the sold-out Orpheum Theatre that he was going to sing of love and heartache, but that some funky dance would make it more palatable. Backed by a ten-person band, most adorned in futuristic garb or glowing neon bands, drawing almost exclusively from his new work, The Age of Adz and All Delighted People, Stevens proceeded to blast the crowd with a much louder, more chaotic torment than fans of Stevens are used to. The stillness in the seats and polite but lukewarm applause after each song seemed to indicate that the house had been sold-out to folks unfamiliar with Stevens's new album—a fair guess, considering the album was released a mere four days before the performance.

As Stevens himself demonstrated some of that "funky dance," head adorned with cockeyed visor and clumps of tinsel, one got the feeling that perhaps we were witnessing a private studio jam session—a sentiment that Stevens reinforced by twice botching the lyrics, stopping and restarting, during "Impossible Soul." Despite the missteps, he seemed comfortable with it all; perhaps enjoying the freedom of this new direction to his music.

It was a visually impressive show, projections appearing both behind and oftentimes in front of Stevens—many of which, Stevens explained, were inspired by Royal Robertson, a paranoid schizophrenic and self-proclaimed prophet who was Stevens's muse for the new album. The visual stimulation combined with the elaborate cacophony of music presented something of a sensory overload: at times intriguing, at times overwhelming, always stunning.

It wasn't until the last song of the set that Stevens really managed to ignite the crowd. Finally heading back to territory familiar to his fans, he closed with a rousing rendition of "Chicago" and then returned to encore with "Concerning the UFO sighting Near Highland, Illinois" and "Casimir Pulaski Day," much to the delight of all, before ending the night with "The Dress Looks Nice on You." The audience then stumbled out, many a bit bewildered, amongst murmurs of "that was terrible!" and "well, I guess I could see, but..."

The folksy croons of opener (and labelmate) D.M. Stith perhaps fit the audience's expectations more precisely, but Stith had a difficult time commanding the unsettled crowd during his brief four songs, despite the rich, multi-layered vocals.

Sufjan Stevens at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis

Sufjan Stevens at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis

Sufjan Stevens at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis

Sufjan Stevens at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis

Sufjan Stevens at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis

Sufjan Stevens at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis

Sufjan Stevens at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis

Sufjan Stevens at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis

Sufjan Stevens at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis

Sufjan Stevens at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis

Sufjan Stevens at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis


Correction: This article orginally stated, erroneously, that the song concluding the set had never been played before.

Box Office: 1-800-982-2787

910 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55403
612-339-7007

    Our primary commenting system uses Facebook logins. If you wish to comment without having a Facebook account, please create an account on this site and log in first. If you are already a registered user, just scroll up to the log in box in the right hand column and log in.

    Mandy Dwyer's picture
    Mandy Dwyer

    Mandy Dwyer is a photographer. She lives in St. Paul.

    Comments

    Comment viewing options

    Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

    really? ended the night on a

    really? ended the night on a never-been-played song? you mean "the dress looks nice on you" from the album "seven swans" that i've heard him sing in concert at least three different times? i think your credibility is shot.

    off base review

    Not sure if you were at the same concert I was at, but I was at a show that stunned me with its emotion and boldness and it included two standing ovations and heavy applause after every song. By the way that "one more never been played song" that he ended the night with was "The Dress Looks Nice on You" off of his 2004 album Seven Swans. You need a better read of the audience and a better background on who you're reviewing to get any credibility.

    Fantastic show

    This show was truly visually stunning as the author stated. The sound in the Orpheum was also fantastic. This show really was fantastic, the songs from the new album were more powerful and robust than other albums but still filled with the same depth of emotion and story telling. It was great to hear songs from the listeners "comfort zone" but it was great hearing songs that Sufjan poured his passion into.

    My apologies, you're correct.

    My apologies, you're correct. The line should have read "never been played by the band." As Sufjan says, "this is very improvised here, we haven't played this song yet."

     

    Thanks for the comments!

    My guess is that when the

    My guess is that when the reviewer wrote "never been played song," she was referring to the fact that Sufjan announced to the audience that he and his band had never played that song before. You may have noticed that he was reviewing capo placement and noting chords as they were warming up and the latecomers were arriving back on stage.

    hmmm. nice of you to fix your

    hmmm. nice of you to fix your mistake. cowardice of you not to print my comment.

    Take another look

    Your comment was the first one published.