Sufjan Stevens au Bataclan
November 9, 2006
It's one thing to hear great music, but it's another thing to see greatness unfold on stage. Sufjan Stevens' recent trip to
The last time I saw Sufjan in concert was in a small hall in
Recently at the Bataclan, I was not sure what to expect. Sufjan moved away from the spirit finger routine into something a bit more... lofty. Possibly in a drive to shake the shackles of a fandom demanding 50 state’s albums, his new obsession has been birds. The Illinoise-makers shed their cocoons and became something to the tune of the "Butterfly Band." Everyone this go-around had what looked like transparent colored paper wings of various (happy) winged creatures. True to form, there weren’t any Jabberwockies or gargoyles but dragonflies and hummingbirds. Sufjan, with largest wings of all, would sway back and forth on stage to make the Velcro totem-poll wings flap as though wanting to take flight.
The Bataclan transition was again musically flawless. Sufjan proved his ability to handle the larger venue and still keep the same rich orchestrated sounds. He even ripped some indie ear-melting chaotic tangents and brought them all back in perfect harmony. In particular, I enjoyed how some songs were finally given the monumentality they deserved, like "Dear Mr. Supercomputer" and "Man of Metropolis." They both foreground the electronic instruments usually given a more balanced place in Sufjan’s music. It's too bad he never played "Vito's Ordination Song" because the drums would have been perfect for that situation.
Yet with the larger venue much of the intimacy from the
Even if this wasn’t the case, I don't think it would have mattered much. The French are notoriously tough crowds (the mosh pits are more like flowerbeds), and the Bataclan was no different. While the concert was sitting room only, I found the crowd unusually unresponsive to the inter-song gags.
All the same, Sufjan kept his childhood stories and jokes flowing, interwoven between every couple songs. His grandmother's distaste for his music (it being "too sad") shed some humorous light on a man fairly hidden by the stories and music around him, which even he acknowledges. In
But the night was not depressing in the least. Sufjan carried the show through to the very end like any master entertainer, synergizing his music with his audience. That is why we keep coming back to his shows and why they are being continually sold out quicker with each tour (in this case, close to two months and in