After driving around in circles amid multiple construction projects for close to 40 mins in downtown Montreal, my wife and I finally found the damn Metropolis. It just so happened to be directly in the MIDDLE of one of the construction zones. I have no idea what the hell I did to Canada, but it straight up hates my skinny ass. Without fail, I will manage to get myself completely lost inside a paper bag if it is on Canadian soil. Sure I could learn their version of the French language better or I could invest in a non-Google sponsored map, but that would take all the suspense out of it wouldn't it?
Sufjan Stevens' show would mark our first show at Metropolis. We went into this show with lower than normal expectations (well, at least I did) as Sufjan's most recent material both 'All Delighted People EP' and the new, sprawling 'Age of Adz' didn't quite hit the sweet spot quite as resonate as strongly as his past releases. But as two huge music nuts we were able to identify that he is a true artist and needs to evolve. Just how far he would let it take him was on full display on this blustery Tuesday.
We knew we were in for a special evening when there were enough musicians on stage to form a softball team. At any given time there were 10 musicians making beautiful, elegant music or noisy, layered, booming passages. Both ends of the spectrum were tightly arranged, meticulously played, and literally jaw dropping to witness.
Throughout the night he relied almost exclusively on his newest material, some never played in front of an audience. He did dip into his Illinois LP for the set ending fan favorite 'Chicago' and his two solo encore songs 'Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois' on piano and 'John Wayne Gacy Jr.' on acoustic guitar. With the new material we find Sufjan staking claim in a completely different territory than his earlier records. Gone are the hushed acoustics, the banjo altogether, and narrative driven songs with 19 word titles. In place of the Sufjan-of-Yore are longer, complex, movement based songs that cram as much into the song as possible. Thematic tunes about 'Bobby Getting a Shadfly Caught In His Hair' have been eschewed for emotionally driven songs steeped in personal pain and heartbreak. From what I can tell after hearing the dubby 'I Walked' off 'Age of Adz' , he definitely had his little indie hipster heart broken. Sad, I know, but his personal experiences have made for amazing new songs.
I am used to Sufjan's material clocking in around 4-ish minutes per track or less than a minute for half baked thoughts he would label as songs. Newer material like the opening track 'All Delighted People' and the mammoth 'Impossible Soul' clocked in at well over ten minutes and 31 (!!) minutes respectively. Come to think of it, I am not 100% sure if 31 minutes was the final time for 'Impossible Soul', it very well could have been longer.
It is clear Sufjan is taking risks with his new material. It may not hold up on the album for me but the live show interprets the material amazingly well. Easily one of the biggest surprises of my show going life was this concert. Preach on Sufjan, you little hipster you!
Recommended listening - All Delighted People EP tracks 'Enchanted Ghost', 'Heirloom', 'From the mouth of Gabriel'
Age of Adz tracks 'I Walked', 'Too Much', 'Get Real Get Right'