There’s blood on that blade, fuck me, I’m falling apart…

Sufjan-Stevens-2015Well.

The Green Man sets will have to wait.

I’m still going over and over in my mind a really quite special night at Colston Hall on Sunday – a beautiful, beautiful evening in the company of Sufjan Stevens.

To be honest, I’m going to struggle even more than usual to get thoughts onto paper, it was simply magnificent. I cannot remember ever being swept away by a concert as much as I was, two hours slipped by in the blink of a moistened eye.

Sufjan Stevens at Colston Hall

Haven’t been to Colston Hall for quite a while now and I always forget what an impressive old venue it is. This being a larger gig, all the seats were out and there was an encouraging buzz in the hall as we came in. A quirky, enjoyable set from Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear (who it turns out is Ward’s Mum…) got the evening off to a light start and I might well come back to it at a later date. A deceptively short turnaround meant that I was caught chatting to friends and was left stumbling around in the dark, looking for my seat, apologising profusely, as the main event started. Unforgiveable behaviour…

All forgiven, I like to think, as a long intro moved gracefully into “Death with Dignity”, the opener of the heartrending Carrie and Lowell record. Backed by the ethereal vocals of Dawn Landes; guitarist Casey Foubert; drummer James McAllister and a multi-instrumentalist whose name I missed but bore more than a passing resemblance to Ripley Johnson, Stevens ran through the whole record, mostly (although not religiously) in order. From the first bars of the intro, I was just spellbound and for the first three or four songs I don’t think I moved in my seat at all. When I did, I glanced around me to see other people similarly hooked, a hall full of people looked on, entranced, stupefied…

In my head at least, Sufjan Stevens has become something of a man of mystery. I’ve not bothered to look at any performances of YouTube; I’ve obviously never seen him play, and I don’t think he’s been over here all that much. I know a couple of people who are real Sufjan obsessives and somehow this also adds to something of a disconnect for the rest of us.

And I have to say, he wasn’t quite what I expected; he was, well, bigger – I’d imagined him to be a sensitive and slightly nerdy type. He had a few endearing tics and mannerisms and seemed at times as if he wanted to burst out into ill-advised mime. At one point, he wore a pair of red sunglasses that made him look like a member of a lo-fi Daft Punk. Some of the songs were given a new perspective to how I’d imagined – “All of Me Wants All of You” was particularly different, a whole new light shed onto it by a harder, dancier rhythm track.

After Carrie and Lowell was over, the man went on to a light sprinkling of material from his other albums, and played a generous encore that included perfect versions of Chicago and John Wayne Gacy. And on top of everything, the lights and visuals were also brilliant, genuinely adding an extra dimension of wonder to an already swollen evening.

Reading this back now, it all sounds a little over the top (hyperbole being something of a weakness of mine), and that I’ve got rather over-emotional about the whole thing. Let’s just say, I shall remember the evening for a very, very long time.

The downside of the stunned attentiveness of an entire audience was on occasion the creak of my seat or the slightest rustle around me can be heard on the recordings. I’m afraid as the evening wore on, and people’s weak bladders got the better of them, this got slightly worse (at one point, I can be heard on the recording saying “It’s like being in the Buildbase”…). I’m not finished fiddling around with them yet but I can only say, go with it, take them when I post them (er…, very soon), they’re still great recordings of a special performance…

Here’s a taster:

Death with Dignity

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