Sufjan Stevens fails his own test at Orpheum

  • Article by: CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 17, 2010 - 12:57 PM

The sold-out concert centered on his hot-mess of a new album, "The Age of Adz," complete with Auto-Tune.

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InamoratoOct. 17, 1011:53 AM

Sufjan Stevens is brilliant and I have been a longtime fan but Chris Riemenschneider is on the mark with his review. I like most of the new album but to build a live show around it requires a level of editing discipline and rehearsing that was missing. The visual effects might have been the highlight of the performance, which is not something I want to say about a Sufjan Stevens show. There were some enjoyable musical moments--more early than late--but near the end of "Impossible Soul" I'd had enough and left. It sounds like I missed the best part of the show: the encore.

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JillbergOct. 17, 1012:36 PM

I love Sufjan Stevens, but I will trust the review and not feel bad for having missed the show. But I can't help commenting on the phrase in the opening paragraph, "should have sang." Honestly, we don't expect perfection, but this is pretty much a third-grade grammar mistake. Can we get a correction, please?

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fran0623Oct. 17, 1012:44 PM

Sufjan has always done hard things, and "The Age of Adz" is an incredible next example. Arguably, his weaknesses and missteps on stage last night were purposed- proving his point that even when you don't "make the worst decision," the "best decision" you can make is not going to be a dandy little drive to "Chicago" (listen to "Vesuvius" again- Steven's inner struggles and hardships are truly laid out for the listener). In talking of his part work, you entirely forget "A Sun Came" and "Enjoy Your Rabbit." Stevens spoke of Royal Robertson fondly because he understood and identified with Robertson's experience (somewhat ironically, the reviewer really didn't get that part- though Sufjan clearly stated it). If the author of this article had a problem with Stevens calling Robertson's art beautiful and inspiring, he should have said so directly. Of course the schizophrenia and unraveling of Robertson's life was tragic; the art, however, was "beautiful and inspiring" enough for an extremely talented artist to mold an album around. To see a Sufjan Stevens audience dance, you are going to need to attend a show outside of Minnesota. Every bespectacled, cardigan-wearing boy and calm, sweet-smiling young lady knows that. Stevens even joked about his dancers making fools of themselves. This again relates to point about exposing the deepest parts of one's self. It's going to be ridiculous and over-the-top (and that's classic Sufjan Stevens stage material). As a final note, consider "Impossible Soul:" it's most definitely the only song with auto-tune I could even imagine listening to more than a year after it was written. It's probably the only song with auto-tune that has actual writing and research and heart and soul in it. Sufjan, you are loved and adored.

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soulquest7Oct. 17, 10 1:53 PM

I saw the concert the night before in Chicago, and it so tremendous I was wishing I had bought tickets for Minneapolis as well. He did exactly what I was hoping he would do-- perform an almost entirely new show based on his two new albums, Age of Adz, and All Delighted People. Because those albums are only a couple months old, it is always going to be the case that the audience will want old favorites. But from the artist's perspective, they are dying (literally, creatively) to move on and not get stuck in a rut. It's been this way generation after generation in rock music. Sufjan has always been all over the place artistically, from the most extreme electronic (Enjoy Your Rabbit) to the mostly folkish (Seven Swans) to the epic (Illinois) to the orchestral (The BQE classical work with an accompanying film no less). His new albums point to a merger of all these styles, and his creativity is flourishing brilliantly as a result. Listeners prepare yourself-- fear no synth! Bravo to Sufjan Stevens for cracking the code and finding his inspiration in the great art of the Prophet Royal Roberts, and translating it into great songs and stage visuals. This merger of the visual arts and risk-taking music is the very basis of art-rock, and Sufjan is a great example of this tradition. Let's hope he continues to ignore the critics, drag the fans into new experiences that are challenging and rewarding, and keeps writing great songs as he always has since day one.

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tomb1949Oct. 17, 10 1:55 PM

In our uncivil era, "fawningly" seems like a unnecessarily pejorative word to describe the behavior of concert attendees who choose to applaud an artist. Would the reviewer have preferred a Rite-of-Spring type protest? And, if so, did he have the gumption to attempt to start one? I saw the same show a few nights earlier, in Royal Oak, MI. Different show, and perhaps it went better than the one in MN. What I heard was challenging and often engrossing music, which I agree (and perhaps Stevens would agree) is still being worked out from a live performance aspect. And I think Stevens is still working on explaining his new direction to fan base, though he has certainly given plenty of indication that his interests were moving in a more through-composed, art music kind of direction. We'll see if this stuff holds up, but I can say that three days later, some of what I heard is still in my head.

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alexam3nosOct. 17, 10 2:27 PM

The reviewer even said, "He even used Auto Tune at one point" at one point :-/ The auto tune in IN THE ALBUM track, and it a brilliant use of it in a most brilliant and beautiful song. In any event such a per se criticism of the use of auto tune only smacks of a cultural philistinism. The Show was simply -and complexly - AMAZING. I couldn't believe that they were able to pull of so much of the new album with such fidelity. I couldn't believe how great they sounded live. Sufjan was kind, gracious, intelligent, informative, and humorous between songs. What more can anyone ask for of a musicians interactions with the crowd between songs? The band was incredibly tight, and impressive in putting these songs and all of their varied parts together. Sufjan displayed incredible musicianship, and even danced. Wonderful and amazing show, amazing music, great energy, and so much fun.

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dliepaOct. 17, 10 2:37 PM

To expect an artist to play his greatest hits is something you might expect from a casual listener of music -- not a music critic. It was an excellent concert from one of the more daring artists making music today. I'm sorry it was too complicated for you, Chris. Your loss.

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AnxietyILOct. 17, 10 2:42 PM

I should only hope to suffer such a miserable failure that results in a packed house and two standing ovations.

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mullenschultOct. 17, 10 2:55 PM

No, Chris - "fawning" is reading your writing about Arcade Fire.

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thoms151Oct. 17, 10 3:05 PM

Riemenschneider's comments regarding the encouraging crowd reactions are telling. He fails to understand Stevens' maturation as an artist, so it is unsurprising that he fails to appreciate the courageous and fun-hearted live interpretation of the album. A review of a concert by a reviewer who has already shown that he cannot comprehend what an artist is doing is neither valid nor relevant.

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