The Postal Service
Live at Barclays Center. Brooklyn NY. 6/14/13
Cat Power - “Manhattan” (Ryan Hemsworth Remix) [Feat. Angel Haze]
Honestly, as someone who thought that Detroit rapper Angel Haze came out of the whole Angel/Azalea feud looking only slightly better than Azealia Banks herself, I am apprehensive about finally digging into her body of work now. That might have to change, however, because I’m finding it very hard not to be impressed by her contributions to Ryan Hemsworth's remix of Cat Power's “Manhattan,” which was released earlier today.
Hemsworth layers just enough dubby, reverberant ooze onto the Sun highlight, allowing Angel’s voice to slink, rather haze-like, atop the smoothed over remnants of Chan Marshall’s piano flickers. Alone, they are both enigmatic and uniquely volatile figures in their respective scenes, but together, Angel Haze and Cat Power really do seem to complement each other. Hemsworth can’t take all the credit for the idea — the two artists are scheduled to play a number of tour dates together — but his work in linking these two artists directly cannot go unrecognized.
Video: Titus Andronicus - “In A Big City” (Official Music Video)
In the new clip for Titus Andronicus' “In A Big City,” frontman Patrick Stickles bears his fresh and unfortunately shaven face all over a presumably large urban area. The footage is a little uncomfortable — it feels like he's giving the viewer death glares for four minutes as he walks around parks, residential areas, and various municipalities.
If that sounds like your thing, give the video a view above. Visually, this video is just about as “of the earth” as their new album Local Business is sonically.
Stream/Download: The Orchestra Of Hugo Stiglitz - How To Remain Conscious (2012)
The Orchestra Of Hugo Stiglitz is the ambient music project of Evan Cooper, an extremely prolific musician based in Smithtown, New York. In 2012 alone, he’s already released six albums, ranging from the lofty ambient folk of Whispers of Immortality to the eerie drone of A Ghost Who Floats.
Released earlier today, How To Remain Conscious is Cooper’s latest and perhaps his best work under the Hugo Stiglitz moniker. It’s also one of his most subtle and thought provoking releases, constantly straddling the line between gently comforting and eerily disturbing. Although still firmly rooted in ambient music with its woozy synths and minimalist keys, How To Remain Conscious finds Cooper flirting extensively with glitchy electronics and subtle beats. When paired together, the two make for a disorienting combination — as a listener, I’m not sure whether to let it simply wash over me, or to pay attention and analyse the musical/rhythmic interplay. I can sense that this album will reward repeated listens for this reason, and I plan to incorporate it into my sleep playlist soon.
Cooper strays from the minimal electronic format occasionally on this record, at times harking back to to emotive folk of Whispers Of Immortality, his last release. The slowly building acoustic guitar and piano duet on “What Did You Forget?” is a particular highlight, especially with the strange, distant samples coming through in the background. The gentle, nursery rhyme-reminiscent “My Imaginary Friend” even finds Cooper singing a little, which adds some lively energy to the otherwise sleepy release. Overall though, I find this album to be most stimulating and successful on the more electronic tracks. It’s a direction that I think would be really rewarding for Cooper to explore more as he continues his impressive musical journey as The Orchestra Of Hugo Stiglitz.
LVL UP - SPACE BROTHERS (2011)
LVL UP is a young band that comprises five young students of the musically rich SUNY Purchase in New York. Their debut LP SPACE BROTHERS came out in October of last year, but I unfortunately slept on it, despite the accolades of such tastemakers as The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die's Greg Horbal and a representative of the band who contacted me via email himself. I guess I fucked up, because this band is awesome. I've been listening to SPACE BROTHERS pretty consistently throughout the past month, and I have not grown tired of it one bit.
Playability is this record’s number one asset; it never gets boring to listen to because it never really feels complete. It’s got thirteen tracks on it, but it only clocks in at 23 minutes. The songs themselves range in length from an un-scrobbleable 28 seconds to over 3 and a half minutes, and with a mean track length a little over the 1 minute mark. Somehow with each track, the band manages to provide a cathartic listening experience while constantly leaving the listener wanting more. Furthermore, although coherence is often seen as a necessary attribute of a successful album, SPACE BROTHERS succeeds precisely because of how disconnected it is. Like some sort of musical race car, LVL UP pulls off breakneck stylistic turns all throughout this record, trying out straightforward guitar rock reminiscent of early Strokes on tracks like “Roman Candle” one moment, and slogging through the lonesome alt-country of “Alabama West” the next, before hurtling headlong into the pop-punk inspired 28 seconds of “Black Mass.” This punkish influence pops up again on the inspirational “Apocalyptophobia,” but is effectively done away with by the subsequent “Bro Chillers,” a reverb-laden track that calls to mind the psychedelic surf rock revival of recent years. No matter the style that the LVL UP boys employ, the results are endlessly catchy and immediately appealing; even the slow, acoustic, penultimate track “Walking Home” will have you humming along.
If I were to categorize the overall aesthetic of SPACE BROTHERS in general terms, I would call it a nostalgic record that still feels forward-thinking. This whole thing is one big paradox isn’t it? It’s clear that these guys all grew up in the 90s, and from what I can tell, they’ve certainly worn their way through a few old Pavement and Modest Mouse LPs; however, although that influence certainly pervades their music, it doesn’t lessen the quality of it. Nostalgic descriptions of “high school parking lots” (from “Roman Candle”) and “floorboards in grandmother’s kitchenette” (“Rotten Ones”) do evoke simpler, easier times, but it’s clear that the members of LVL UP don’t wish to wallow in the past. Similarly, although the generally lo-fi atmosphere and low-mixed vocals suggest some sort of slacker attitude, there’s simply too much energy welled up in SPACE BROTHERS to give it such a reductive epithet. As singer Dave Benton says on the unpronounceable but still fantastic standout track “*_*,” “I gave up long ago.”
I don’t believe him; if he had truly given up, that song and this record as a whole wouldn’t be nearly as good. But then again, if he weren’t telling the truth, SPACE BROTHERS would be a dishonest record. Just another paradox.
The moral of this review? Don’t think too hard. In the time I took to write these words, I could have listened SPACE BROTHERS four times. I think I’ll go do that now.
LVL UP's SPACE BROTHERS is available for free download on their bandcamp page HERE. Check out their facebook page for information about upcoming releases and shows. Apparently they’re scheduled to play a show at SUNY Purchase soon, at which they will perform SPACE BROTHERS in its entirety.
BRIGHT EYES Live at Williamsburg Waterfront. Brooklyn NY. 8.31.11
Conor Oberst brought his long-running songwriting institution Bright Eyes to the banks of the East River on Wednesday night for a show at Brooklyn’s Williamsburg Waterfront. The show was part of a lengthy tour behind the group’s most recent studio album The People’s Key, released on Saddle Creek in February.
Oberst & Co. brought their tourmates Dr. Dog along as support, in addition to New Jersey’s Real Estate, who opened the show. Real Estate took the stage just as the sun was beginning to hang low in the sky over New York City, delivering their blissful summery surf pop to the growing crowd that was beginning to trickle in through the gates. It was a scorching hot day when I arrived at the Waterfront, but as soon as Real Estate began to play, it immediately felt as though a cool, localized breeze had descended on the venue and its patrons. Real Estate didn’t have much of a draw among the Bright Eyes crowd, but people seemed to enjoy them nonetheless. Perhaps they had foresight about this, as they took the opportunity to perform a set comprised almost entirely of unreleased material from their forthcoming sophomore album Days. Amidst all of the other Days songs, their jangly new single “It’s Real” sounded especially fantastic.
While I had seen Real Estate perform once before at B.O.M.B. Fest back in May, I had never seen Dr. Dog before, nor had I given them much of a serious listen. To be honest, up until this show, I had dismissed them as just another fairly inoffensive, middle-of-the-road indie rock band. Needless to say, I was pretty surprised and impressed when they began their set. They reminded me of a more clean-cut, less hackneyed version of bands like The Gaslight Anthem, with admirable musicality, a loose, jam-friendly easiness, and a little psychedelic pop for flavor. It’s an interesting package for sure, and the audience was really into it. I’ll definitely be giving this band more listens in the future.
Anyway, both opening bands got the crowd suitably warmed up for the headlining act. By the time the band took the stage, the cries of swooning teenage girls and disaffected teenage boys (along with those of some people who used to be teenage girls and boys) did not die down for at least a few solid minutes, provoking a particularly adorable looking Conor Oberst to sheepishly grin at the crowd as he and his bandmates were setting up. It was the first and possibly only time he or any of the other touring Bright Eyes members slipped up that night, which is remarkably impressive in retrospect, considering the scope and ambition of the show itself.
In total, the band performed 21 songs, including three encores and a lengthy band introduction segment, in which Conor played hype-man to the likes of his “main man”, trumpeter Nate Walcott and his “brother”, multi-instrumentalist Mike Mogis, whom he also stated was the best record producer ever. “Fuck Dr. Dre,” he said afterwards.
Many previous shows on the tour have seen the band open with “Firewall”, the dramatic opening track to The People’s Key, which was initially shocking to hear on record both for its bizarre spoken word introduction by Denny Brewer and for its cold atmosphere, which hangs over most of The People’s Key as a whole. Instead, the band chose to open with “Four Winds”, the countrified standout track from 2007’s Cassadaga. This choice makes sense on one level — “Four Winds” was a big hit for the band and is one of their definitive songs — but the track itself is pretty far removed from the direction that Bright Eyes seemed to be heading in with their latest album. In fact, the band didn’t even play a People’s Key song until five songs into the set. They pulled out gems from Lifted, I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning, and Digital Ash In A Digital Urn, including a peculiar slowed down version of “Bowl Of Oranges,” which became a great singalong in the live setting. When they finally did try a song from the new album, they pounded out the high-tempo electrified rocker ”Jejune Stars” with tenacity and unprecedented energy. The band seems to have come to terms with the new material over the course of the tour, and It was clear that while Oberst’s older work would forever have its place in the Bright Eyes canon, the new songs could be really fun too. I understood this as soon as I heard the blistering opening drum beats of “Jejune Stars”, and the crowd seemed to get it fairly quickly too. Actually, people got even more psyched up about The People’s Key's “Shell Games” than they did about the song that came immediately before it, the hyper-emotive Lifted classic “Lover I Don’t Have To Love”. It was great seeing such a dedicated fanbase react to change in such an accepting way.
With some clever setlist choices, the newer tracks were incorporated into the set pretty smoothly. In order to help ease some of the transitions between gentle folk songs like the gorgeous “Landlocked Blues” from I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning and the electronic-tinged People’s Key numbers, a healthy number of Digital Ash In A Digital Urn cuts were incorporated into the set. On a strictly musical level, The People’s Key has a lot in common with Digital Ash, and hearing the synth-led Digital Ash single “Take It Easy (Love Nothing)” immediately before “Jejune Stars” really made those similarities stand out. “Lover I Don’t Have To Love” flowed into “Shell Games” pretty nicely too, since both songs are based around similar keyboard arrangements.
I mentioned earlier that I was impressed with the focused energy and the tightness of Conor and the band, but I’ll reiterate it here. This was easily the most professional sounding show I’ve ever been to, with not a single discernable musical error, mistake, or awkward moment. Every one of the band members played their instruments brilliantly and charismatically, sometimes (in the case of Mike Mogis in particular) switching up instruments between songs or even in the middle of songs but never sacrificing the quality of the songs themselves.
This is not to say, however, that the band was “professional” in all senses of that word. Between songs and while performing, Conor Oberst was endearingly boyish. He acted out his own songs with hand motions in between guitar strums, danced on top of the monitors, and came up with lyrical ad-libs on the fly that just happened to be funny or poignant enough to work. In “Hot Knives”, he threw the crowd for a loop by changing the very singable line “Yeah I’ve made love, Yeah I’ve been fucked, so what?” into the more amusing “Yeah I’ve made love wearing handcuffs, so what?”. During “Landlocked Blues”, Oberst threw in some much needed profanity to the fifth verse (“And that little fucker shot me dead!”). If I hadn’t known better, based on my impression of him at the show, I would never have been able to guess that he was actually 31 years old. Of course, people who actively dislike Bright Eyes might take this as a negative criticism. Ever since he first started Bright Eyes as a teenager, people have been telling Oberst to act his age, but for those of us who appreciate Conor and his distinctive personality, this playfulness was something to celebrate. It was just so damn cute.
One of the great things about seeing a band with such a deep and varied discography as that of Bright Eyes is that you never really know what you’re going to get. Sure, you’ll hear some hits (in this case, “Four Winds”, “Take It Easy”, and “Lover I Don’t Have To Love”) and some new songs (“Jejune Stars”, “Shell Games”, “Approximated Sunlight”), but beyond that, it’s up to whatever the band feels like playing. Conor definitely threw some surprises into the setlist on Wednesday night, most of which were incredibly rewarding to hear. The middle of the set was heavy on surprises, starting with the fantastic Four Winds EP track “Cartoon Blues”, which Oberst prefaced with a jab about Williamsburg hipsters. Immediately afterwards, touring keyboardist and backing vocalist Laura Burhenn stepped out from behind her synthesizer to sing lead vocals on the first verse of a cover of Gillian Welch's “Wrecking Ball”. A couple songs later, the band surprised everyone by playing the eerie, southern gothic Fevers and Mirrors cut “Arienette”. They would later go on to play “The Calendar Hung Itself” from the same album, which was incredibly cathartic to shout along to even if it did feel a bit ridiculous at times.
Of course, if you were following my facebook or twitter feeds at any point between tuesday night and wednesday afternoon, you probably knew what I was really hoping to hear that night. The night before in Providence, Rhode Island, Bright Eyes played their 10 minute+ Lifted-closing masterpiece ”Let’s Not Shit Ourselves (To Love And Be Loved)” live for the first time since 2002. My friend was there and said that it was basically the most amazing thing she had ever heard in her whole life as far as shows go. From the moment she told me about it I knew that if they played that song at the Brooklyn show, I could probably just die right there and be happy about it. Well, imagine the look on my face when I saw that one of the drumsets that was wheeled onstage had a gigantic timpani drum attached to it. I knew that the timpani drum could only be used for one thing, and that it was only a matter of time before they played my favorite Bright Eyes song ever.
The band exited the stage after the somber “Ladder Song”, only to return for an encore about fifteen minutes later with smiles on their faces. “Can I get a goddamn timpani roll?”, Oberst asked the drummer in a manner that was much calmer than how he sounds on the album version. I half expected him to say “please.” But once the band launched into the song — this amazing goddamn song — I had no doubts about anything. The only thing I can compare the experience to is the first time I heard Titus Andronicus' “The Battle of Hampton Roads” live in July 2010, but even that seems to pale in comparison to just how important this performance was to me. I went absolutely crazy, shouting along to the lyrics throughout the entire duration of the lengthy song, and nearly everyone around me did the same. It was inspiring and intimidating but incredibly meaningful and real. After it was over, the rousing I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning closer ”Road To Joy” and the cheesy but endearing The People’s Key closer “One For You, One For Me” flew by in a daze. Pretty soon the band had left the stage, and I was still left wondering what the hell just happened to me two songs ago.
In the car on the way back, I got into a conversation with my cousin, who went to the show with me. I was talking to him about my relationship with Bright Eyes’ music, and how I felt that in just a few years, I may not be able to appreciate it in the same way anymore. Well, I’ve heard murmurings that The People’s Key is supposed to be the last Bright Eyes album, so perhaps if I ever do grow up and fly away from the musical nest that this band has crafted for me, they might not be around when I do. If this is the case, I certainly feel lucky to have seen them when I did. I know that it’s still going to be quite a while before I say goodbye to Bright Eyes (and probably even longer before I move on from Conor Oberst in general), but when and if that time comes, I think that I’ll be ready for it, having experienced this show. Until then, I’ll probably just keep reliving the moment when Conor Oberst told me that he made love wearing handcuffs. And most of the other moments from that night too.
Setlist - 8/31/11
- 1. Four Winds
- 2. Bowl Of Oranges
- 3. Old Soul Song (For The New World Order)
- 4. Take It Easy (Love Nothing)
- 5. Jejune Stars
- 6. Landlocked Blues
- 7. Lover I Don’t Have To Love
- 8. Shell Games
- 9. Approximated Sunlight
- 10. Cartoon Blues
- 11. Wrecking Ball (Gillian Welch cover)
- 12. Hot Knives
- 13. Arienette
- 14. Arc Of Time (Time Code)
- 15. I Believe In Symmetry
- 16. Another Travellin’ Song
- 17. The Calendar Hung Itself
- 18. Ladder Song
- 19. Let’s Not Shit Ourselves (To Love And Be Loved) (Encore)
- 20. Road To Joy (Encore)
- 21. One For You, One For Me (Encore)
Check out the full set of photos from Wednesday night HERE at the Lewis and his Blog facebook page.
Photos: Sufjan Stevens live at Prospect Park. Brooklyn NY. 8.3.11
Find these photos and more over at the Lewis and his Blog facebook page HERE.
Read a full review of both Sufjan Stevens Prospect Park shows HERE.
SUFJAN STEVENS live at Prospect Park. Brooklyn NY. 8/2-3/11
(“Seven Swans” - August 3rd)
Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens closed his Age of Adz tour on Tuesday and Wednesday with two back-to-back shows in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, a place that he affectionately referred to as his “own backyard.” As a whole, the lengthy world tour was orchestrated behind Sufjan’s 2010 release The Age of Adz — less as a traditional way of promoting the album than as an extension of the album itself.
Never one to be called unambitious, Sufjan Stevens shocked fans all over the world when The Age of Adz was released last year. The album’s harsh, occasionally dissonant electronic squalls, thumping beats, and manipulated vocals made for a disorienting and potentially uncomfortable listening experience. Similarly, Sufjan’s change in lyrical tone and voice was perhaps even more jarring, as he exchanged wordy literary and historical references for much more personal and inwardly-focused songwriting.
As difficult as that album was, its brilliant concept was rewarding to those who could appreciate its challenging musical exterior. While I personally found The Age of Adz to be a fantastic record, even the most ambitious albums are often bound by the limitations of the format. After witnessing not one, but two Age of Adz shows in as many days, it is clear to me that Sufjan was wholly aware of this. In terms of sheer scope, The Age of Adz tour was even greater than the album itself. Between the tour and the album itself, nothing was lost and all of the unrealized potential that The Age of Adz had as a record became fully realized in the context of live performance.
In an effort to illustrate how dramatic his artistic evolution that had taken place over the past five years was, Sufjan and his band took the stage shrouded by a translucent screen. Wearing enormous white feathered wings and tenderly holding a banjo, the instrument that had often been the centerpiece of previous Sufjan Stevens releases, he began playing “Seven Swans”, the title track from his most stripped down, minimalistic folk album of the same name. Against the backdrop of the setting Brooklyn sun (and, on the second day, the cold Brooklyn rain) his majestic wings, whisper-thin vocals, and gentle banjo plucks silenced the crowd all but completely. I think my jaw hit the floor when the full band began to play, transforming the gentle piano break that appears on the studio version of “Seven Swans” into a massive, anthemic din. Everybody could tell that we were in for something special, but I doubt anyone had much of an idea of what was in store. At the song’s amplified, gigantic sounding climax, Sufjan similarly wing-ed backup vocalists sounded like a heavenly choir, rising above the cacophony being produced in front of them. In one final moment of symbolic evolution, Sufjan threw his banjo across the stage, shed his swan wings, and pounded his hands down on the Prophet 8 synthesizer that stood elegantly on a crystalline pedestal in front of him. This was, of course, the instrument with which he crafted The Age of Adz. This gloriously unsubtle symbolic statement was brilliant nonetheless, and I would be surprised if there was a single person in the park on either night who didn’t experience the overwhelming chills that overtook me at the end of that song. After a brief thank you and introduction, the band launched into the electronified beat-pop of “Too Much”.
(“Too Much” - August 3rd)
Sufjan explained the concept of The Age of Adz at length during both shows, but he almost didn’t need to. Combined with stunning visual imagery in the form of lights, projected images and video, neon tape, and extravagant costumes, the music spoke mostly for itself. Of course, describing the combination of the show’s visuals and music here would be more unnecessary, so I’ll just reiterate his description here. He introduced the show, and thus, the album, as an exploration of the mind, body, movement, and space (“both inner and outer”, as he said). He credited the sign painter, folk artist, and self-proclaimed prophet Royal Robertson throughout the show with being the inspiration for much of The Age of Adz, using animated versions of a lot of his artwork during performances of “Get Real Get Right”, which he dedicated to Robertson, and various other songs throughout both shows. Apparently, Robertson’s story and art inspired Sufjan and led him out of a dark period of creative uncertainty which must have transpired at some point in the five years between his last proper release, 2005’s Illinois, and The Age of Adz and its complementary All Delighted People EP, from which he performed a couple tracks as well. This was all expressed on the album as well, but it seemed a lot more clear and inspired in the live setting.
At multiple points during the shows, it was apparent that Sufjan’s creative vision had extended far past the album. During the performance of “Vesuvius”, a projected fire raged on the screen behind the band while the backup singers sang directly to their bandleader, “Sufjan, follow your heart.” Even in somber moments such as the harmony-laden “Now That I’m Older”, the visual accoutrements supported lyrical statements. “The silent man comes down / All dressed in radiant colors / You see it for yourself”, he sang, effectively capturing the entire show’s concept in a single statement.
(“Now That I’m Older” - August 3rd)
As great as the concept of the two shows was, it could not have been executed as well as it was without a stellar band. During the second show, Sufjan publicly thanked his band profusely, acknowledging that the Age of Adz music was “brutal” to play. There were at least 15 people onstage contributing to the sound, which swelled and subsided throughout the show, sometimes at seemingly random points in the middle of certain songs. The musicianship on “Age of Adz” was especially admirable, with the band’s two drummers working in tandem with the winds and brass sections to produce an encapsulating sound during the song’s introduction and chorus. Furthermore, the band members and their instruments were decked out in shiny neon tape. At the center of it all were Sufjan Stevens’ vocals and the Prophet 8, mixed beautifully by whoever was in charge of the sound both nights.
Still, with all of the electronic mania that constituted the majority of both shows, some of the most touching moments were also the most simple. Excluding the dark take on “Seven Swans”, Sufjan performed a couple of intimate folk songs in each show. One of the major differences between the two shows came in the form of those folk songs. The first night, he contrasted the heaviness of “Age of Adz” with a performance of the gentle All Delighted People cut “Heirloom”, one of my favorite tracks on the EP. The next night, his guitar was out of tune, so he performed a folk song later in the set, instead choosing the sadder “Enchanting Ghost” from the same EP.
(“Heirloom” - August 2nd)
I have heard Sufjan talk about how it was a conscious decision to “bookend” The Age of Adz with two folk songs, and it seems like that influenced his setlist decisions for these two shows. Instead of bookending the whole show with folk songs, he instead surrounded The Age of Adz-centerpiece “Impossible Soul” with them. Before embarking on that 25+ minute sonic journey, he played the heartfelt Age of Adz opener “Futile Devices”, which included an improvised Casio solo from his keyboardist. He closed the show with “Pleasure Principle”, the final movement of “Impossible Soul” that served as the calm after the storm both on record and also at the show.
I wish I could talk more about “Impossible Soul”, but none of my praises or descriptions could really do it justice. All I can say is that it was about as theatrical and extravagant as anything I’ve ever seen, but it still managed to work and make sense because it was all very genuine and heartfelt. For his auto-tuned solo, Sufjan put on a robot hat and wore a half-disco ball on his chest and… well, just look at the picture.
(“Impossible Soul” - August 3rd)
Then he ran away for an instrumental break, only to return along with his spandex-clad dancers wearing a gigantic suit made out of balloons. The resulting singalong party was seriously mind-blowing, and probably the most fun I’ve had all summer. There were giant balloons flying around everywhere, along with Neon-tape covered inflatable tube men, and everybody was just going crazy. Those 20-ish minutes flew by in a heartbeat, and soon enough, the crowd had calmed and Sufjan was singing “Pleasure Principle”, still wearing his balloons. The second night, “Impossible Soul” was even better, as the rain started to pour during the most upbeat part of the song and not a single person cared at all.
(“Impossible Soul” - August 3rd)
(“Impossible Soul” - August 3rd)
(“Impossible Soul” - August 2nd)
Sufjan and the band left the stage after that, only to return soon thereafter for an encore performance. As if to appease those fans in the crowd who may not have been as interested in the new creative direction, Sufjan came out with his winds section first to play “Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois”, the opening track on Illinois, which sounded beautiful. Sufjan’s falsetto when he sang “Then to Lebanon, oh god” instantly brought me back to the first time I heard Illinois, and nearly made me cry. On the first night, Sufjan then performed “Casimir Pulaski Day”, also from Illinois, which ended with a “Hey Jude” style singalong from the crowd that was very moving. The next night, Sufjan performed “The Dress Looks Nice On You” instead, an understated cut from Seven Swans that was great to hear if not as powerful as the devastating “Casimir Pulaski Day”.
Of course, we all knew what the last encore song would be. Finally hearing “Chicago” live after all these years (It was among the very first songs that really got me into independent music) was wonderfully nostalgic, and hearing it again the next night was even better. Singing my heart out with the entire crowd as rain poured and we all got soaking wet was simply an unforgettable moment for me, and certainly one of the highlights of my lifetime experiences as a music fan. Sufjan spent most of the time singing it while standing on top of the piano, directing the audience and pushing the enormous beach balls that had appeared out of no where out of the way.
(“Chicago” - August 3rd)
Overall, by the end of the two shows, I felt moved and changed. I felt inspired and intimidated. Most of all, I felt a renewed belief in Sufjan Stevens’ genius, and if you weren’t at these shows, I honestly don’t care what you think of that statement. Collectively, these were the best shows I have ever seen. Both had their ups and downs, including Sufjan forgetting lyrics during some songs on the second night, but they balanced each other out to make a truly perfect two-night event. The Age of Adz may be over, but I’ll be sure to follow Sufjan Stevens wherever he goes next with the heart and mind of a totally obnoxious and annoying fanboy. Nothing can stop me.
Setlist - 8/2/11
- 1. Seven Swans
- 2. Too Much
- 3. Age of Adz
- 4. Heirloom
- 5. I Walked
- 6. Now That I’m Older
- 7. Get Real Get Right
- 8. Vesuvius
- 9. I Want To Be Well
- 10. Futile Devices
- 11. Impossible Soul
- 12. Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois… (Encore)
- 13. Casimir Pulaski Day (Encore)
- 14. Chicago (Encore)
Setlist - 8/3/11
- 1. Seven Swans
- 2. Too Much
- 3. Age of Adz
- 4. I Walked
- 5. Now That I’m Older
- 6. Get Real Get Right
- 7. Enchanting Ghost
- 8. Vesuvius
- 9. I Want To Be Well
- 10. Futile Devices
- 11. Impossible Soul
- 12. Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois… (Encore)
- 13. The Dress Looks Nice On You (Encore)
- 14. Chicago (Encore)
Together, a 10/10.
Check out the full set of photos from Sufjan Stevens’ show at Prospect Park in Brooklyn last night, up now at the Lewis and his Blog facebook page.
VIDEO: The Strokes & Elvis Costello - “Taken For a Fool” (Live at Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY, 4.1.11)
In what must have been an awesome surprise for the cooler Strokes fans at their sold-out show at New York City’s Madison Square Garden last night, the legendary power pop originator Elvis Costello played an unannounced opening set. According to Stereogum, Costello’s short set consisted of three fantastic early-career hits — “Pump It Up”, “Radio Radio” and “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love And Understanding?”. Afterwards, when the Strokes were well into their headlining set, Costello reappeared. Apparently to Casablancas’ surprise, he came back onstage guitar in hand to sing the hook to Angles' “Taken For a Fool”, an appropriate song, given the day, which if you ask me takes quite a lot from Mr. Costello's songbook himself. Costello pulls it off effortlessly, and looks pretty awesome doing it. Seeing him onstage playing such a rocking tune makes me wish he would go back to making music like that again, but I guess I should just be glad that he's making good music at all, regardless of genre. His recent Americana-influenced albums have actually been surprisingly good.