Sufjan Stevens - Sydney Opera House
Ever since releasing Illinois, Sufjan Stevens has ceaselessly run away from the yoke of being labelled the ultimate hipster's musician, casually genre-hopping and picking up whatever instruments come to hand. Coming full circle, Carrie and Lowell embraces the intimate moments of that break-through record while exploring his traumatic, disjointed relationship with his late mother.
With a dim lit stage, Super 8 footage from his childhood appears fragmented as church window shapes behind him. Stevens and his bandmates play in near darkness and for the most sparse arrangements, his fragile voice and heartbreaking falsetto led us through his childhood, his abandonment and his struggle with his own demons. Flitting between from piano, synth, ukelele and guitar, his bandmates and him offer an interesting change on the production from the album with 'Should Have Known Better' getting a very poppy revamp while '4th of July' becomes a cataclysmic, banging anthem to the inexorable certainty of death. An hour in, after almost playing the album in its entirety, he is finally able to talk, breaking the spell by donning a green cap and discussing at length how the departed live on in us, occupying us in our minds and genes.
He returns to the old favourites with' Sister', 'For The Widows in Paradise' before finishing with the closing track from Carrie And Lowell, 'Blue Bucket of Gold' that culminates in an explosion of electronica, noise and lights. Acknowledging the love for the now decade old Illinois which he had so far avoided, he rewards the Sydney audience with prime cuts 'Casimir Pulaski Day', 'John Wayne Gacy' and 'Concerning the UFO Sighting'. The encores end with what he jokingly admits is the "Only happy song I've written", his near-hit 'Chicago'.
Stevens defies classification to offer a profound music that takes on an even greater meaning when on stage. This was a humbling experience and one that marks him out as one of the finest songwriters of his generation.