I have to admit, for the first half hour of the Sufjan Stevens concert, I was unsettled. I had heard that this album was different, but since I had only listened to “Enchanting Ghost” and “Futile Devices,” I didn’t realize to what extent. I don’t know how to explain it, but I was worried that he wasn’t creating music like this because he wanted to, but just because. I don’t like it when people do things just because. It seems nihilistic to me, I guess. I don’t know if I’m using that term right. I need them to be compelled to do what they are doing, or at least to want to, in terms of music anyway. Or maybe I just didn’t want him to be one of those “phony” people that Holden Caulfield is always going on about.
I mean, he was wearing a sideways visor for goodness sake. With LED’s. I didn’t know if I could trust him just yet.
Then about half-way through, he told us about Royal Robertson. His story reminds me of the feeling I had when I went to Vegas to see Ben Folds and Rufus Wainwright and met up with Jade, and she took me to that house where a guy puts a new object outside every night so that aliens won’t abduct him. So his house, roof, porch, everything is just covered with STUFF. Like tons of it. Lawn ornaments and decorations and signs and cars and it’s COVERED. And we drove to that house, and we ran outside and touched the fence, and I was really a scared for real. And then we went to that same house the next day and it was light outside and I thought “Well, this is all kind of silly”. And I wished that we hadn’t seen the house in the day so that it could still be eerie in my mind. So when Sufjan talked about Royal, it was kind of the opposite experience. I started out thinking, “Well, this is kind of silly,” then I saw it in the light and and thought it was pretty awesome. I wish he had told Royal’s story earlier; then I would have understood things more from the beginning. Like when we read the liner notes before we watched The BQE. Helpful.
By the way The BQE is a lot like this book that I’m reading for my Philosophies of Anthropology class:
Chapter titles include: “‘Do You Believe in Reality?’: News from the Trenches of the Science Wars”, “The Historicity of Things: Where Were Microbes Before Pasteur?”, and a soon to be favorite, “A Collective of Humans and Nonhumans”.
Anyway. I “Impossible Soul” is where it all turned around for me. I loved it. And I loved how Sufjan danced and I am really disappointed that my youtube search on “How To Dance Like Sufjan Stevens” was fruitless. DID I MENTION HE USED AUTO-TUNE?! Although the part that he sang that way mentioned windows and it immediately made me think of this. Distraction. In the end, he rewarded our acceptance of his new album with some songs from Illinoise. All I really wanted was to hear John Wayne Gacy Jr., and Sufan delivered. After I thought about it a while, these new songs are not so different from his other ones. Strip down the instrumentation and you have the same concepts.
What a night.
Thanks Sufjan Stevens, we really can do much more together.