suff jan

zena and i had the privilege of seeing sufjan stevens friday night on a little mini-tour he’s doing through the great lakes area and canada. as he put it during some between-song patter, “part of the reason i’m doing this tour is to try out some new songs,” which just made it all the better.

we heard four of ’em, to be exact — the neo-funky impossible soul, the poppy there’s too much love, the space-horror freakout age of adz, and a heavily reworked, epic, difficult all delighted people, which retained only the lyrics to the refrain (“all delighted people raise their hands”) from the original. majesty snowbird got an airing too, also slightly reworked (or re-arranged), making it clearer, less orchestral and slightly more accessible: in other words, better.

setlists from earlier in the tour indicated another new song, alien attack. i presume this was cut to make room for more songs from greetings from michigan: flint, the upper peninsula, detroit, and holland were all in evidence.

labelmates cryptacize opened with an antiseptic, emotionless, ultra-hip form of indie music, heavily indebted to 60’s french pop and the beach boys (they played an ironic cover of transcendental meditation and mentioned pointedly that they were from california). on one of their songs, cosmic sing-along, they sang a super-clear, a capella caesura: “sing along, sing along, sing along.” no one did. later in the concert, when sufjan played casimir pulaski day (about an ex-crush who died of cancer) you could feel the pathos in the room. his obvious emotional investment was so compelling, the room spontaneously joined him for the “da da da” melody that ends the song. cryptacize: fake cosmic singalong that wasn’t; sufjan: true cosmic singalong that was. it was amazing.

we wished we’d heard the transfiguration (which he’d been playing earlier on the tour), but it’s hard to complain with this guy. as zena said, “it was a dream.” as the culture declines, the lights — informed by the light — will seem even more brilliant. case in point.

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