I went to see Sufjan Stevens at Great American Music Hall two nights in a row on Sunday and Monday. This may be the first band/ artist I’ve seen two nights in a row…I tried to see the Polyphonic Spree twice in a row at Slim’s but the second night was sold out.
The shows were fairly similar but different enough that I got new things out of each of them.
The material was mainly (almost entirely—I think the first night it might have been entirely) from Illinois. This was fine with me. There’s certainly enough good material on that disc to put together a good set. I liked the softer songs a lot: “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” and “the Predatory Wasp of the Palisades” were both played both nights. The would-be-singles “Chicago” and “Come on Feel the Illinoise” were also played both nights. He also finished the main set both nights with a song I didn’t like too much on the album but liked live “the Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts.”
I’d forgotten how good Sufjan is at instruments. He’s a good enough guitar player. He writes interesting guitar parts and plays them flawlessly, but they’re not incredibly hard. He’s a fantastic keyboard player, though. He’ll just plow through a fast solo on a song or play some of the rhythmically difficult things he writes in 5/4 or other strange time signatures without a hesitation. He’s also a great singer.This latest album he uses his falsetto a lot to good effect.
He’s fun to watch on stage. During the Michigan/ Seven Swans tour, he told lots of (made up) stories about the origins of the songs and whatnot. He didn’t really talk much about the songs but he did do cheers. The whole thing for this tour is Illinois cheerleaders (or Illinoisemakers); like for the last tour his back up band was the Michigan Militia, dressed in little boy scout-like uniforms with American flag hankerchiefs around their necks. So do go along with the cheerleader outfits they wore, they did cheers for some cities, like Peoria and Metropolis (which rhymed Metropolis with “Balki Bartokomous“). They were mostly under-prepared and sometimes forgotten. They were endearing in that way.
The second night the encore consisted of his cover/ version of “Star Spangled Banner” and “Romulus” both, apparently, by request. Those are two of my favorite Sufjan songs so I was pretty pleased with that.
His former bell player and back up singer, now just back up singer, is still really cute!
One major complaint was that I think there was only one or two songs with banjo and John Ringhofer (of Half-Handed Cloud) who was playing as part of the backup band, did the banjo playing, not Sufjan. Dylan and I tried to start the chant “B-A-N-J-O” (same cadence as “B-I-N-G-O” was his name-o) and I was tempted to yell “More banjo!” and later “Put away the damn guitar and play some banjo!” I encourage you to yell these things or to start the “B-A-N-J-O” cheer if you see him later this tour.