I’ve seen Sufjan Stevens perform three times, and in each instance it’s been a bit of a spectacle. This first was my freshman year of college, when Stevens was promoting Come on! Feel the Illinoise, the second in his now forfeit “50 States” project. Next was in Denver, just last year, as Stevens promoted his Age of Adz album. The first saw Stevens in a boyscout outfit, with the addition of colorful eagle wings (on stage with him, of course, was Annie Clark, though I did not know who she was at the time). The second show was much more shiny. Stevens wore bright silver pants and performed several strange robot dances. It was the best.
The third instance was last night, the Chattanooga stop of Stevens’s month long “Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long: Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant on Ice” tour. If your familiar with Stevens, you know that he likes Christmas just as much as Jesus Christ. In 2006 he released a 5 EP box set of Christmas songs (you can buy it now for just 15 bucks), earlier this month he released a second box set which includes 5 more EPs, effectively providing the sound track to every hipster’s holiday party from here til judgement day.
At $30, it’s a steal. Included are the 5 Eps, a poster, stickers, stick on tattoos, a song book with tabs and Christmas essays, and a paper craft ornament.
The concert was, like the EP box set, packed full of strange and shiny light up decorations, including a nun practicing her stand-up routine and a massive Christmas song wheel that Stevens and crew would periodically spin in order to determine the next song in the night’s set list. Sure, it might be a little gimmicky, but so is Christmas.
On stage with Stevens was Rosie Thomas. She spent most of the show wrapped up in a snowman costume. After a stirring rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Thomas made a passing joke about needing to do a trust fall. Almost instinctually, Stevens began chanting “Trust fall! Trust fall!” Everyone else, of course, joined in. Thomas walked to the end of the stage, turned her back sharply, spread her arms wide, and fell into crowd.
It’s that kind of light-hearted fooling around that makes seeing Sufjan Stevens live such a worth while event. It’s always a lot of fun, as Stevens exudes this strange kind of intimacy that makes everyone int he audience feel like their a part of the show. Maybe that’s why it seems so fulfilling. Most concerts I go to, if they’re any good, leave me with this strange sense of longing. I’ll try and explain it briefly: I want to be in the band, but I’m not, and that makes me sad.
I know, lame.
But that’s not the feeling I get after seeing Stevens perform. Sure, I’d love to be in his band, if not for the validation that comes with being so cool. However, the concert is a lot of fun, and I think that’s important Sufjan’s shows are fun. That’s his point, his endgame, it’s to have a good time. There’s an inherit sincerity there that I find endearing the older I get. It’s reflected in the ticket price, at just $20 it’s a deal.
Here’s a list of the dates left in the tour, if you have the chance then I highly recommend attending. You don’t have to love Sufjan Stevens, you don’t have to love Christmas, you just have to be brave enough to have a good time.
11-28 Oxford, MS –
The Lyric Oxford *
11-30 Dallas, TX – Granada Theater *
12-01 Austin, TX – Emo’s East *
12-03 Tucson, AZ – Rialto Theatre *
12-04 Los Angeles, CA – The Fonda Theatre (formerly The Music Box) *
12-05 San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall *
12-06 Portland, OR – Aladdin Theater *
12-08 Seattle, WA – Neptune Theatre *
12-09 Missoula, MT – Wilma Theatre *
12-12 Minneapolis, MN – Mill City Nights (Formerly The Brick) *
12-13 Milwaukee, WI – Turner Hall *
12-14 Indianapolis, IN – Deluxe @ Old National Centre *
12-15 Chicago, IL – Metro *
12-16 Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom *
12-18 Buffalo, NY – Asbury Hall @ Babeville *
12-19 Providence, RI – Fete *
12-20 Boston, MA – Royale *
12-21 New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom *
12-22 New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom *
* with Sheila Saputo (Rosie Thomas’s alter ego).