Monday, October 16, 2006

Sufjan Stevens with My Brightest Diamond Contributed by Lezah Williamson

Sufjan Stevens with My Brightest Diamond

Oct. 14, St. Andrews Wesley Church, Vancouver, BC

Contributed by Lezah Williamson

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Last Saturday night we headed out to Sufjan Stevens in great anticipation. We had bought our tickets almost two months ago and the show had sold out almost immediately. But then I read in the paper Saturday morning that a limited number of tickets would be available at the door, and that might have been what the problem was. You see, we arrived at 6:30 to get good seats near the front; the tickets said doors at 7. But when we got there, the line up was already a block long. Word was that people had started to line up for those extra tickets at 8 am that morning. Yeesh. So us, with tickets, ended up getting in behind the people who arrived without tickets. Sometimes life's just not fair!

And then some guy walked by towards the end of the ever-increasing line and said that he's heard Sufjan Stevens is always notoriously late. And I guess that's the case, because although tickets said doors at 7, we never even moved until about 7:45, and by the time we got in just before 8, the first act was already half way through the set. Fortunately a very kind and generous fellow fan offered to go get coffees for everyone, so we had something to keep us warm as we waited. Thanks to the red haired guy with the nose ring, if you're reading this!

Anyway, as I said, My Brightest Diamond was already about half-way through her set when we got in. We eventually got a seat in the balcony, and we were able to see quite well from there. I'm sure that wasn't the case for most of the patrons on the floor.

There seemed to be a theme in the dress of her band - everyone was wearing some variation of black and red, in some cases with white thrown in for good measure. Her voice is fantastic - very operatic, and the music seems to cover a number of genres.

When she was done we had the opportunity to take a look at the venue which was fantastic. The acoustics had already proven themselves with the first act, and the setting just fit right in with Sufjan Stevens and what he's all about.

When his band came out, then were wearing what looked like mint green pants and butterfly wings. He came out later dressed in a similar fashion, and when he sat down at the piano the energy in the air was palpable. There was both a string and horn section, as well as the conventional guitar and drums that one expects to see at a concert. In addition, Stevens spent quite a bit of time at the grand piano that was centre stage, although at times he also played the banjo or the guitar. Throughout the show, he would tell little stories about the origin of the songs and the audience was absolutely reverential. You could literally hear a pin drop, and I know this for a fact, because as the second song, the music stopped and my stomach growled and it sounded as though it filled the whole balcony. Fortunately the sound of my stomach was quickly drowned out by applause. And that was the rhythm of the evening: the band played, the song stopped, people applauded enthusiastically and yet very politely (no whistling, no yelling, no hootin' and hollerin') - it was like I was in Japan watching a show, rather than Canada.

He played two new songs (one called Snowbird and one from the upcoming Christmas album) and a lot of songs from Illinois, but nothing from The Avalanche. Some of the songs had been rearranged quite a bit from the albums, but they didn't lose anything. All in all, it was the best concert I've ever attended, bar none.

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