Sufjan Stevens played his second show at the Bowery Ballroom on October 5th as part of a small tour he is performing to workshop some new songs. Opening band Cryptacize got the sold-out show warmed up with pretty song stylings and herky jerky dance moves provided by lead singer Nedelle Torrisi. Nedelle also took the stage for background vocal duties during the entirety of Sufjan’s set.
The start of the evening was a bit rough due to a confusing mush of lines waiting outside to get in, and two flooded bathrooms (‘you can go, but just don’t flush,’ the security guard warned). But once Sufjan plucked his first banjo string at roughly 10 pm, all was forgiven. Considering the intimate size of the Bowery Ballroom, you can expect there to be a few bad apples in any given crowd. This crowd had its two, and they happened to be standing right next to me. I did my best to train my left ear to concentrate on Sufjan’s near flawless performances of such classics as ‘Casimir Pulaski Day,’ ‘Chicago,’ and ‘Size Too Small.’ While my right ear was being bombarded by two very drunk ladies who clutched on to each other and shouted random things for nearly the whole show. And yet, I would still consider this performance to be one of the best live shows I’ve seen to date.
Out of the few new songs performed, the epic ‘Impossible Soul,’ and ‘Age of Adz,’ were the most awe inspiring. Sufjan apologized before beginning each of these songs, telling the audience that if they were too long, a trip to the bar wouldn’t be frowned upon. But no one moved a muscle, aside from the two drunk girls of course. Both of the songs were about 15 minutes long and had the backing of a full band consisting of horn players, guitar, drums and bass. Much more rockingly dramatic than the majority of his previous work, they are a hint towards the many avenues that Sufjan has yet to explore with his recordings. Singing songs about beloved Midwestern states is fine, but there’s more to this songwriter than a tractor pull and a pretty face. Although lord, does he ever have one.
photo courtesy Last.fm