My Brightest DiamondEdit this event
Opening up for Suff-jann…Soof-yawn…Suff-yon…or whatever… in this cosy Tokyo gem of a venue is his long-term collaborator Shara Worden, a.k.a. My Brightest Diamond. Kitted out in a slick white suit, she confesses to resembling “an evangelist, a motivational speaker…or _Prince”_. Thankfully, she is none of those, but instead entirely original. Tantalisingly, she blends together the striking vocal range of Mariah Carey, the slightly jerky bonkers-ness of Tori Amos and the sassiness of PJ Harvey. In doing so, she makes quite the statement on stage. Hers is a solid but short set, interspersed with alternating ‘gremlin’ and ‘camp boy’ impressions that act as bizarre introductions to each track. A lack of material prevents this from being great, but it is certainly entertaining and wonderfully odd all the same.
Worden returns after a short break to join Sufjan and eight other musicians who together constitute the* Sufjan Stevens* live experience. You’d think that ten musicians playing select tracks from a series of independent concept albums would be nothing short of chaotic. What actually materialises on stage is quite the opposite. Considering the scale and complexity of the material he covers, it’s a remarkably tight set. We’re taken along for a two-hour ride through his best work, starting in Michigan, back through Illinois, via_ Seven Swans and ending up with _The Avalanche. Along the way, the Sufjan circus stops off for interludes involving an outrageously acrobatic man with a flashy hula-hoop, a set of wings for each band member and all manner of impressive sax, horn, banjo and vocal solos and cacophonies.
Softly spoken and with a slightly breathy yet pitch-perfect singing voice, his stage persona is that of an autobiographical narrator of sorts. The kind of narrator you could happily listen to for hours on end, spinning yarns about life’s ups and downs. Songs are introduced in the context in which they were written, inviting the audience to come a little closer and get to know the person behind what is actually a set full of deeply personal songs or – as he puts it – those of “a boy from a trailer in Detroit trying to write songs about loneliness”. They may, on the face of it, simply be about lakes in Michigan, owls in barns or indeed a Chevrolet Avalanche, but before each we are given a five-minute introduction that sets the scene, each culminating in “…and this is what that moment sounded like”. It works, to the extent that the strength of the live show eclipses even the intelligence and sophisticated sentiment of his work on record. Genuinely stirring at times, pleasantly off-the-wall at others but always entertaining, it was for me one of the best – and most unique – live shows I’ve had the pleasure of seeing.
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