"These are songs about love, death and the apocalypse," explains Sufjan Stevens a short way into his set. "Should be a lot of fun."
He's not wrong, either. In terms of making the apocalypse palatable, the church could learn a lot from Stevens, although there are similarities between the raiment and ceremony of the Catholic church, and his own stage performance. Although no minister of the church ever had the guts (or, indeed, the wings) to wear a giant pair of angel wings, as Sufjan does during one of the many epiphanic climaxes that punctuate the show. Nor, indeed, the giant tinfoil pyramid headdress and mirrorball robe donned for part of the monumental half-hour-long "Impossible Soul", which closes the set.
Most of the set is taken from Stevens's recent album The Age of Adz, on which his former folk, pop and avant-classical inclinations are broadened by the inclusion of glitchy electronica. His 10-piece band comprises pairs of drummers, keyboardists, guitarists, trombonists -who add an air of bathetic pomp to the proceedings – and dancer/singers, all sporting black catsuits gaily decorated with multi-coloured fluorescent tape. Adding to the visual sherbet are the video projections on the backdrop and a translucent screen periodically lowered in front of the proceedings. The music is itchily processional: "Too Much" is a funk number of sinuous pop charm, while Stevens' gift for beguiling, serpentine melodies is best demonstrated by the exquisite "I Walked", which is preceded by brief explanation of the singer's new interest in dance as a non-verbal language.
His monumental "love song to the apocalypse", "The Age of Adz", is set to an animated backdrop of childlike sci-fi illustrations by the outsider artist Royal Robertson, about whom Stevens later delivers a 10-minute illustrated lecture, as part of his disquisition on the "process" behind the new album. Robertson, it seems, isn't the only starchild involved: Sufjan reveals his own parents claimed they were star aliens, and raised him to believe he was a sort of alien refugee. His upbringing, he says, was a mixture of Rudolf Steiner schooling, Amway training and "naked family yoga", which goes some way to explaining the uniqueness of his idiosyncratic music and performance. Whatever the route, he seems well on course for some form of stardom, anyway.Reuse content