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- Sufjan Stevens »
“This human pyramid is dedicated to Superman,” announces Sufjan Stevens as his band, dressed in matching cheerleader outfits, clamber on each other’s backs. He puts down his blow up Superman and they dismount and launch into ‘Metropolis’. With pom-poms waggling, there are choreographed cheer routines before each song. This is proper (albeit slightly camp and tongue-in-cheek) showbusiness and it looks like fun.
It’s not just spectacle for its own sake. This is spectacle for the sake of conveying a mood – inclusive and celebratory. Only the neurotically supercool could avoid having a smile on their face. It also serves a useful purpose: Stripped of some of his ‘Illinoise’ album’s musical flourishes, this atmosphere helps to bring Stevens’ prodigious studio epics to life.
From the hypnotic choral chant of ‘Chicago’ (a song that shows what the Polyphonic Spree should sound like), to the fittingly raw and mainly acoustic ‘Casimir Pulaski Day’ and ‘John Wayne Gacy, Jr.’_, the emotional power he can put into what are quite conceptual songs, is devastating. For the latter two he also stills the mirthful mood to play them straight, as if to demonstrate he’s just as effective without all the theatrical prancing about. He is.
It really doesn’t matter whether Sufjan Stevens’ musical snapshots of history and emotion say anything about Illinois (with the whole set lifted from the ‘Illinoise’ album). Not everyone in Yorkshire talks like Alan Bennett characters either. He uses it as a starting point to create a very individual musical world. And he uses this gig to show just how annoyingly talented he is as a songwriter, musician and especially performer.
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