Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Majesty Songbird Sings Out West

Sufjan Stevens, 14 October 2006
St Andrew's Wesley Church, Vancouver

Dearest Friends, you'll recall that my Greek commitment (about which more another day) forced me to give up my tickets to see Sufjan perform in Vancouver. Well, I'm very pleased to say that Dear Heidi, to whom the tickets went, was kind enough to provide a lovely write-up of the show. And so, without any further ado, let me turn the proceedings over to her, with my thanks:


FiL, I am sorry you had to miss this show so I could enjoy it, but thank you very much for the tickets. It was a wonderful break on a rainy night.

I deliberately avoided reading anything about the show so I could be completely surprised. In addition, neither I nor my friend had attended a show at the St. Andrews-Wesley Church before, so we were excited to take in the acoustics and the overall aesthetics of the space. Really, the only low point was waiting in line until just past 8 p.m. for the doors to open (tickets said 7 p.m.) but open pews were available upstairs and once settled, I looked out over both the large crowd and the converted stage filled with music stands and My Brightest Diamond in the midst of their set. As the start was missed due to the line, the highlights are limited but I particularly enjoyed an intense performance of “Workhorse” and fantastic covers of Nina Simone’s “Feelin’ Good” (featuring a lovely trombone) and—for Sufjan—“Dido’s Lament” (Purcell.) I’ve only ever heard one other cover of this aria, and I was blown away by Shara’s vocal control—wow!

Once Sufjan hit the stage, I noted that that the band for both MBD and Sufjan were essentially identical—around 2 hours + of music between the two acts. We counted 15 people onstage, and the instrumentation consisted of three brass, a cello, violins/viola(?), harmonium(?) and percussion, piano, guitars, bass and banjo. The band was very tight and . . . . “wall of sound” is the only phrase I can think of to describe the effect. Neither of us had any particular setlist expectations aside from the wish for some back catalogue numbers; we both came away very happy. I think I heard a saw during the intro (The Vivian Girls Are Visited In the Night . . .), and that put a big grin on my face for the duration of the performance. I didn’t bother taking notes on the entire set, I was too caught up in watching the “bird and butterflies” interactions and enjoying the music; but, if I had to pick some highlights:

  • Both of Sufjan’s stories, but particularly using National Geographic images in home decorating
  • “All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands,” “He Woke Me Up Again”—the orchestration on these two songs was just fantastic; I’m still savoring “All the Trees of the Field . . . .” in my head a day later.
  • “The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us!” (with story)
  • “Jacksonville”
  • A new song “Majesty, Snowbird”—“extraordinary song for ordinary bird”
  • “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!” (to get us in the holiday mood)
  • Encore of “That Dress Looks good on You”

Again, thank you FiL; thanks to Hilary for joining me and of course thank you to the "Majesty Songbird," the "Magical Butterfly Brigade" & My Brightest Diamond for a night of beautiful music.

Sufjan Stevens - The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us!
(buy here or e-here)