Live Review - Sufjan Stevens
Royal Festival Hall, London - 12/05/11
Sufjan Stevens has long been known for amazing, if all too rare, live performances, and after several years away expectations were exceptionally high ahead of his return to the London stage.
Where as the shows on 2005's Illinois tour featured glorious orchestral folk, this time around Stevens and his ten piece band managed to mix jittering techno with the sound and soul of George Clinton's Paliament/Funkadelic and Sun Ra's Arkestra.
Opening with Seven Swans, the band performed within layers of animated projections, and somehow made concept of a man in angel wings - playing a banjo in front of go-go dancers while illuminated in neon - seem the most natural thing in the world.
What to most other acts would be an ambitious finale was merely the start of a two and a half hour marathon, as the singer introduced himself to the rapturous audience by announcing, "Hi, my name is Sufjan Stevens and I'm your entertainment for the evening. We're gonna sing some songs about love, death and the apocalypse. It should be a lot of fun."
The setlist was drawn largely from last year's Age Of Adz album and the All Delighted People EP, and veered thrillingly between intimate delicacies such as the gothic piano ballad The Owl And The Tanager and full on psych-rock wig-outs like the twenty minute closer Impossible Soul.
Along the way wigs were worn, lectures on outsider art were given, shapes were thrown, souls were touched and hearts were broken - before being carefully put back together again.
An encore of tracks taken from Illinois culminated with a euphoric take on Chicago and a cascade of balloons and confetti, just in case the audience had been in any doubt that they had just been to the party the year.
A lot of fun indeed.
1. Seven Swans
2. Too Much
3. Age Of Adz
5. I Walked
6. The Owl And The Tanager
7. Get Real Get Right
8. Enchanting Ghost
10. I Want To Be Well
11. Futile Devices
12. Impossible Soul
1. Concerning the UFO sighting near Highland, Illinois
2. John Wayne Gacy, Jr.