Sufjan Stevens @ Orpheum -- 10/28/10

Last time Sufjan Stevens was in town, a few years back now, I missed out on tickets. Even though my interest in him had wained a little -- not having an album out in five years being part of the reason -- I knew that I would regret missing out this time. And I am so glad I didn't miss out.

Opening act was DM Stith, who came out alone and announced he would be playing us four songs, which was exactly what he delivered. He had a folky sounds, which kind of reminded me of Sufjan at times. There was also some nice use of looping, and a surprise horn section for a song (or as he called it, "Bam! Trumpet"). Before the last song, he told us how while rehearsing, Stevens liked to call the non-lyrical parts of the songs -- the ooohh's and aaaahhh's -- "sex scenes", then promised us a long one before going into his last song. He was quite good, and I hope he hits the road again and is back soon.

And then Sufjan Stevens came out. I had heard many things from his shows, so wasn't sure what to expect... but he came out in full force with his band, almost a dozen strong, including Stith, with keyboards, pianos, horns, a pair of drum sets, and even backup singers/dancers. Capping it off was a giant screen behind them, which added either animations of videos through the show, and it was a pretty grand stage setup. He started off with "Seven Swans", but the rest of the set was heavy on the new material; mostly from The Age of Adz, but a couple from the EP he released just before that, All Delighted People. The title track from the former and "I Walked" were probably two of my favourite, and I'm glad I gave the album a few spins before going to the show, as I can see the new material being kind of tough to get into.
Mid way through the set, he told a lengthy story about artist Royal Robertson, his mental illnesses, artwork and influences on the album. After a few more, he played "Impossible Soul", which was quite an amazing feat, as it is twenty five minute long(!!). The song goes in movements, for lack of a better term, and when it kicked into high gear for one part, the lower half of the orpheum rushed the gap in front of the stage to dance... and they weren't the only ones. The backup singers/dancers came to the front of the stage, with Sufjan himself for some amazing choreographed dance moves. All while decked out in 90's "fashion". And then he brought in the auto-tune, which I was a little less annoyed by than usual, probably because the whole thing just seemed to be more tongue in cheek than anything; he clearly wasn't taking himself seriously.
I was fully expecting that to be all, but he had one more to go, the one song many people there were probably waiting for: "Chicago". The opening notes got a huge burst of applause, and the crowd was captivated by it. After saying his thanks and a long break, he came out for the encore, which consisted of two more from Illinoise. He came out alone, at first, for "Concerning the UFOs..." and then the whole band came back to back him up for "Jacksonville" before leaving the crowd on their feet roaring with applause.

I kind of wished he played a few more older songs -- "John Wayne Gacy Jr." would have been amazing live -- but I also understand why he didn't (humourously forgetting a line in "Jacksonville" was probably part of the reason). Despite that, it was a pretty amazing show, and I just hope it won't be another four years until he is back.

Seven Swans; Too Much; The Age of Adz; Heirloom; I Walked; Futile Devices; Vesuvius; Now That I'm Older; Get Real Get Right; Enchanting Ghost; Impossible Soul; Chicago.
[encore] Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois; Jacksonville.