(I usually try to get these little reviews published in the days immediately following a gig but last week was a busy one. Got to keep up the habit though!)
This was not an easy gig to sit through. I had fallen out of touch with Sufjan Stevens’ music over the past few years, but I now know that his most recent album was a tribute to his late mother, whose death clearly affected him greatly. The main set of this concert was drawn entirely from the album, and while the songs are full of the gentle melodies and striking images you expect from him, the lyrics are dark and at times very depressing. That said, I actually enjoyed being there for the most part.
I think on another evening I might well have decided to leave early, particularly during the 15 minute extended noisy jam at the end (which Nadine reckoned was meant to be creating a kind of meditative space). As it happened, quite a lot of people did leave from about halfway through the concert onwards, so there were empty seats dotted throughout the sold-out theatre by the end. On the other hand, those that stayed seemed to really love it all, particularly if the almost universal standing ovations at the end of the main set, and again after the encore, were anything to go by.
The encore was certainly the highlight for me, featuring – as he said himself – “older happier songs”. There were tracks from both his Illinois and Michigan albums. Most beautiful was his solo rendition of the opening track from Illinois, Concerning the UFO sighting…, and the closing rendition of Chicago was pretty good too. He is a very, very talented musician and composer and I would go to see him again, but perhaps only if he was touring with a more varied repertoire.
For Chicago he brought his opening act, Basia Bulat, back to the stage. She was really great. Performed a selection of odd instruments and sang beautifully – there was a Tracy Chapman-esque quality to her voice. Here’s a video of her in action…
P.S. Basia Bulat’s set was made much less enjoyable by the click-clack of the hostesses heels as they showed latecomers to their places using flashlights that had unnecessarily wide and bright beams. Very annoying, particularly given how expensive the tickets are for gigs in the Théâtre du Léman.