Let’s Go Trippin’… (Sufjan Stevens Concert at Prospect Park)

3 Aug

“Tonight we celebrate Brooklyn, we celebrate the rain, and we celebrate ourselves!” These were Sufjan Stevens’ words of wisdom near the end of his set tonight in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. As he said this during the Celebrate Brooklyn festival, in the rain, talking to a crowd of devoted (and drenched) fans, it was very fitting. Afterwards he apologized for quoting too much Walt Whitman; then proceed to quote some more. But hey, that’s just Sufjan.

Like vegetarianism, nomadism, and Red Sox fandom, being a fan of Sufjan Stevens is a lifestyle. One has to be prepared for feathered wings, elephant sized beach balls, and Walt Whitman quotations when at gatherings of other like-minded souls (such as concerts like this). One’s mind has to be open to beauty in it’s most conventional (Sufjan’s lovely face) and strange (that robot / clown / ??? costume he wore during the encore) forms- and love them all equally.

Diamond Rings

The evening started at 7PM with Diamond Rings as the opening act. Wearing clothes of black and hair of peroxide, he sure made a statement. His wardrobe started off including a white jacket with red randomly angled stripes, shades, and a black hat with spikes on the front (kind of a take on Lady Gaga’s sunglasses, those ones that look like they have sparkly mirror shards jutting out of them). About two songs in they all came off, and a human emerged from under the accessories! I’d never heard of him before, but I’d give him a listen. Great energy with lots of grooving (think the robot, but more fluid) and a nice mix of guitar and synthesized instruments (such as drums that took the form of an electronic square panel).

It was raining pretty heavily during his set, and a fair number of people had their umbrellas out, a field of plastic flowers. He saw a rainbow one in the back and took a liking, dedicating the second song to it. Now I can officially say I’ve wished I was an umbrella, if only for a moment. ;)

His neck. That neck. I had a little giggle because of how active it was; first like a chicken going forwards and backwards to that techno beat, then side to side like the most hip bobble head I’ve ever seen. In the words of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Willow, “I make my own fun.” :P

Diamond Rings Setlist
1. Play By Heart
2. On Our Own
“Let’s have some fun now, eh?”
3.  You & Me
(after this song he talked a little, musing that we were “probably conserving yourselves for the madness that’s going to be behind me”- he looked to Sufjan’s setup and already glowing equipment)
4. Wait & See
5. Something Else
6. You Oughta Know
7. It’s Not My Party
(this one was nice and low, I really dug it)
8. All Yr Songs
9. Show Me Your Stuff
(at the end there as a sort of free-styling portion which I’m dubbing “glitter rap”- it was sparkly and exciting and catchy and used a fast pace of speech)

Sufjan Stevens

The crowd thickened, the rained persisted, the spirits remained undampened. Sufjan Stevens took the stage. He took the stage, took my breath, he stole my heart. A flash, a burst, and Sufjan emerged a winged man. Huge, fluffy wings. I’d heard that he was quite the performer and saw a sneak-peek of his dance routine on Pitchfork, but I don’t think even a video of a prior concert could have prepared me for this experience.

He started out with the old favorite “Seven Swans”- I’d heard that on this tour he used very little of his old material, so I was pleased that this made the cut. For the most part, Sufjan was in the middle of the stage by a keyboard, piano, or mike for guitar, but when he sang his older more folky material he always walked out to the far end of the stage where where was a short cat walk. He separated himself from the rest of his band, the dancers paused.

…THE DANCERS! My oh my, do they have my admiration. There were two on either end of the stage towards the front with two in the center of the stage in the back to assist with backup vocals as well. I was lucky enough to have the choreographer right in front of me, I liked having the original show me the moves. At first I thought her moves were fluid but random as she’d sway to the left, step to the right, sway, it seemed like she was making it up as she went along. Imagine my surprise when I looked across to the other side of the stage and saw the other girl doing the exact same thing! I think it was one of those “the easier it looks, the harder it actually is” moments. Sufjan did join in some of the dancing, the culmination being “Vesuvius” when everyone made mountain shapes with their arms, reached towards the sky, saluted nature.

Where does the neon human end and the neon screen begin?!

The lights were brilliant on their own, but the wardrobe designer deserves major props for this show. All of the band members wore black with glow-in-the-dark (or blacklit?) duct tape in interesting patterns on their clothes and instruments. On of my favorite examples was the trombone player, who had pink burst lines on the horn of his instrument and on his sunglasses. Gotta have your glow-in-the-dark accessories match, it’s an artist must.

Behind the band and dancers, there was a screen that had images being projected on to it. For the most part they were brightly colored shapes and solar scenes with a few spurts of what I could best describe as dancing .gifs of Sufjan and his friends. To add another layer (pun intended) to the scene, a mesh screen was lowered in the front of the stage for even more images to be projected on to.

With the mesh screen:

Without the mesh screen: 

Towards the end, two stage crew members carried out a huge (about 15 feet, probably) hexagonal object, which they set down and Sufjan hid behind.

When he emerged, he was, well…

Yeah, probably a more rainbow-infused, latex-rich, version of Cousin It. It. Was. Amazing. Just… how? Why? The dancers changed outfits about three times, but they were always dressed in dancing-appropriate gear, just different colors and styles. This getup of Sufjan’s, however, was truly inspired. I believe that this was the time when the huge beach balls were thrown into the crowd and all heck broke loose. Everyone went wild….er.

That white blob in the lower right is Sufjan…

Being the wonderful human being he is Sufjan didn’t make us wait long for the encore, and at long last we were finally rewarded with “Chicago”. Thanks, man!

He even put on a cowboy hat for the occasion, because Illinois is the state most associated with these here ol’ cowboys. Right? ;)

…Illuminated like the angel he is.

Oh yeah, and buy this time I had weaseled my way into the front row. Per-sev-er-ence. And sharp elbows. ;)

I love this one.

Sufjan Stevens Setlist
1. Seven Swans
2. Too Much
3. Age of Adz
“I encourage you to move your butt, dance is healing power!”
4. I Walked
(This was a change in the setlist order because his guitar was out of tune and it wasn’t jelling.He tried the next song and proceeded to forget the lyrics. Or, as Sufjan put it, “it just goes to show that I don’t own the song. It belongs to the world. You can have it.)
5. Now That I’m Older
(Please note that the title of the song whose lyrics Sufjan forgot. He did, and joked that it may have been a senior moment.)
6. Get Real Get Right
7. Heirloom
8. Vesuvius
9. I Want To Be Well
10. Futile Devices
11. Impossible Soul
(This might have been my favorite song of the night. Not necessarily my favorite song of his, but Sufjan’s energy and joy and passion were more evident then ever here, and the crowd emanated all of it.)
12. Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland
13. The Dress Looks Nice On You
14. Chicago

Can you believe I got the only setlist? I’m going to contact about the Guinness Book of World Records regarding my streak. ;)

Before “Get Real Get Right” (such a tune), Sufjan talked about one of the main inspirations for the record, Royal Robertson. Royal was an artist who painted space, talked about being visited by aliens, and fascinated Sufjan. He called the evening a cosmic space prom, and I’m inclined to agree. A prom where everyone had a couple thousand dates, the dancing wasn’t awkward, and the DJ didn’t suck.

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