Sufnasty encounters Late Night

In a previous interview…

STOSUY: I’ve never seen you play any Late Night TV shows. Everyone does those now. You just not want to do them?

STEVENS: I don’t understand why bands do that. It seems really tacky to me. I get asked all the time .Those shows are just promoting insipid comedies. Who watches those shows? And whoever does-I don’t think my music would speak to those people. I don’t even want those people to hear what I’m doing. I think musicians should stay off television generally.

Check out Suf playing Too Much on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

When we saw him, the neon letters on his guitar read “icy hot.” This time it says “Royal” as a tribute to Royal Robertson, Sufjan’s schizophrenic inspiration for Age of Adz.

Also looks like the fly girls have moved up in the world…

Genuis or Mad Man?

Disclaimer:I’ve taken Sufjan’s fascination with deconstruction to heart in this post–it’s pretty scattered with no determinate direction.

Saturday was quite the day before THE day…I spent the early afternoon at the High Museum attempting to understand the madness of Salvador Dali, and later Sufjan Stevens was “my entertainment for the evening” at the Tabernacle. I didn’t connect the two until the following morning; both men exemplify the thin line between genius and crazy…or maybe thinking of the spectrum as a line fails to account for postmodern influence. Maybe it’s not a continuum, but a circle. Either way, these dudes are kooky and trippy as hell. Neither is limited to a particular style or medium. Both have a symbolic complexity beyond the ordinary and comprehensible, often (but not always) embodied in the way they title their work: The Remains of an Automobile Giving Birth to a Blind Horse is as intricate as some of the tracks from Illinois like “Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois” or “A Conjunction of Drones Simulating the way in Which Sufjan Stevens has an existential Crisis in the Great Godfrey Maze.”

Sufjan walked on stage with wings and a flock of musicians–not a new thing for him, but many in the audience have only google imaged this majesty. He opened with “Seven Swans,” and he slowly spun as he played to reveal the full spectacle of the wings to the audience. In person, he is…beyond description. It felt like Lady GaGa meets Indie rock—lots of costume changes and choreography, but in a subtle, deceptively smooth way. His movements are sharp but soft. Throughout the beginning of the show, I was mesmerized by his beauty.

Check it out in this video someone posted of Vesuvius. My favorite line of this song is “Sufjan, follow your heart…” like he’s talking to himself.

From the title track: he described this song as an “apocalyptic love song.” He must have used the word “apocalyptic” nine times throughout the evening.

For what you see is
Not fantasy, it’s
Not what it gets, but gives
This is the Age of Adz
Eternal living

Gloria, Gloria
It rots
Victoria, Victoria
It lives in all of us

To me, the name Victoria symbolizes colonization—English explorers naming their acquisitions after their queen. After all, land is gendered female. Do you think that like me, Suf is fascinated by the idea of colonization of the mind? Is he saying that each of us harbor a spirit of conquest in some way or another?

Sufjan dedicated “Get Real Get Right” to Royal Robertson, who Wikipedia describes here: “Numerous hallucinatory visions of space travel where aliens predicted the End of Days through complex numerological formulas and warned him about the dangers of adultery and fornication led Robertson to believe that he was a victim of a global female conspiracy. He believed that his ex-wife’s betrayal would be the cause of the cataclysmic destruction of humanity, and that his art was divinely sanctioned.” Sufjan told us that Robertson had been visited by angels, UFO’s, and even God himself on several occasions. Again, the line between genuis and mad man blurs. Robertson is responsible for all of the album artwork, and the screen displayed his trailer home with his prolific work scattered around. It was some crazy a$$ s***.

So where does my crushing stand after seeing him in person? In some ways, the lyrics “Boy, we can do much more together…it’s not so impossible,” from “Impossible Soul” ring true, but as Jeff aptly pointed out after one of his long pontifications on alternate realities and the space age, “You wouldn’t want to come home to that every night.” He’s so heady, it’s almost much too much. SufJohn (as he pronounced it falsely on stage one time) might be too deep even for Moxie, but the fascination persists.

And after all, he did pull through with Casimir Pulaski Day in the encore; I should never have doubted him.

Suf? Is that you?

Turns out I love Sufjan Stevens. 34  years old. Super quirky. Disillusioned with albums and songs. And apparently he loves Moxie. (check out the graphic on his Tshirt). We’ve all been salivating since Illinois for his next record. Apparently he’s given up on his project to make an album for each state. I respect that, Suf. We all have to renegotiate our commitments now and then. Thanks for being honest. But really, we miss you.

I just watched the DVD of BQE–his most recent creation, which is a symphony about the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, a controversial highway in NYC (whatever that means). Here’s how he describes it in the liner notes…

And then it hits you: If skyscrapers are the ultimate phallic symbols,then then the urban expressway is the ultimate birth canal,the uterine wall, the anatomical passageway, the ultimate means of egress, and the process by which we are all born again…

I have to say, it sounds more interesting than it is. I think what really pierced me about Sufjan were his compassionate, intimate lyrics. I can appreciate instruments to a point, but I’m just not feeling this one. I wish I had some artsy, smart thing to say, but I don’t. I miss “John Wayne Gacy” and the like.

PASTE magazine’s review says it “transcends words and time and place,” but I can’t quite get into it. Does this make me a fair weather fan?

Here’s Pitchfork’s review.

In sum, although I really like the idea of BQE, and I enjoyed hearing what he was thinking while creating it, I’d still like to hear what he has to say about Maryland, Georgia, or even Alabama, and I’m sad he’s given up on his 50 states project.

“I no longer really have faith in the album anymore. I no longer have faith in the song.” –Sufjan Stevens

Maybe he’s too quirky even for Moxie…I have to admit, although I’m disappointed in this recent direction, I will be breaking out his Christmas CD, Hark, Songs for Christmas, any day now.