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Sufjan Stevens on a neon platter

Indie-folkie spellbinds a crowded Copley Hall

Sufjan Stevens charms with indie-folk ear candy and stories of his youth.
  • Sufjan Stevens charms with indie-folk ear candy and stories of his youth.

Sufjan Stevens made a rare appearance in San Diego in support of his seventh studio album, Carrie & Lowell. Playing the Copley Symphony Hall, a gothic-revival-style theater downtown, Stevens captivated the audience during his generous two-hour show.

I was curious as to how the indie-folk singer/songwriter would be able to perform the skeletal songs of Carrie & Lowell and maintain the audience’s attention. Dispelling those thoughts, Stevens and his band started out with “Redford (for Yia-Yia & Pappou),” the gloomy piano ensemble from 2003’s Michigan, which sent palpable chills throughout the crowd.

Most of what followed was new material. In an effort to inject a pulse into the funereal songs of Carrie & Lowell, hip-hop and electronic soundscapes were added and seemed to keep the crowd focused.

The Copley is a large venue, and it's not easy to be intimate without lulling everyone to sleep; however, Stevens successfully delivered his music on a neon platter that kept the listener curious and hungry for more. With so many quiet moments during the set, you could hear the person next to you breathing, yet the crowd remained respectful. Whistles and yelps could be heard during a familiar banjo or guitar riff, offering a sort-of sonic/comic relief.

"Blue Bucket of Gold"

Sufjan Stevens live from this year's tour

Sufjan Stevens live from this year's tour

The crowd was acknowledged after about a dozen songs with a simple “Thanks” from Stevens, making the crowd cheer with appreciation as he charmed everyone with his boyish demeanor. Stevens spoke about his childhood, sharing stories of his parents and family pets. After playing mostly new material, Stevens and company dipped into his older albums. Saving “Blue Bucket of Gold” for last (before the encore), the song transitioned into a psychedelic jam accompanied by frantic lighting and feedback from the audience. It was almost too much for the poor symphony hall to accommodate, nearly sending the audience into a collective seizure. As they ended the number, the band waited for everyone to stop applauding, but that didn’t happen, leading the players to retreat backstage. The crowd kept the roars going for five minutes before the band came out for more.

After dazzling the eyes with a light show and hypnotizing everyone with ear candy, Stevens concluded the evening with “Chicago.” Its horns and vocal harmonies summarized the performance, leaving fans with a memorable experience.

  • Concert: Sufjan Stevens
  • Date: June 2
  • Venue: Copley Symphony Hall
  • Seats: 48C

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