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Posts Tagged ‘Sufjan at Peabody Opera House’

Photo credit goes to the Washington Post.

Photo credit goes to the Washington Post.

If you asked me 7 years ago who Sufjan Stevens is, I would’ve probably given you a weird look and said, “Uhh… I dunno? Is this a trick question?” I was still firmly rooted in the world of Genesis and music done by the many members of Genesis. Not to diss on Genesis at all – their work is amazing! But my world was also very small.

It wasn’t until November 2008 that my friend (who wound up becoming my husband) told me about this amazing musician named Sufjan. He played a few songs from the Illinois(e) album in his car, most specifically “Chicago” and “The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders.” He showed me “Chicago” because he figured I’d dig the groove, and he gleefully showed me “The Tallest Man” specifically because of the time signature. I had admitted it was cool, but I wasn’t ready to open up my little world yet.

“Here. I’m giving this to you. Give it a chance, okay?” he said.

A few weeks later, I drove myself to school (I was a teacher then) with that CD in my car. Slowly crunching through the snow, I wondered which track that one song I liked was. I searched and searched, forgetting what the intro sounded like, and found it just as I pulled into the parking lot (it was a very short drive – less than a mile). There was something about that song that wouldn’t leave me alone. I had to keep listening to it and had to dissect the layers of vocals and instrumentation. Even when I visited Chicago with a few friends that December, I couldn’t help thinking about that song and humming the chorus as we trudged in snow toward the Field Museum. To this day, that song conjures up images of the beautiful Windy City blanketed in snow.

I wouldn’t realize the profound effect that Sufjan and his music would have on my life, but he slowly crept more and more into my life. After Illinois(e), I was exposed to Seven Swans, specifically “Seven Swans” and “The Transfiguration.” Then in the summer, I was given a burned copy of Michigan. I would find myself saying, “I’m gonna put that one Suf-jam guy on, I think,” and would start listening to his music. “Dear Mr. Supercomputer” would play when I raced to the gym in wintertime. “Decatur” came on when I drove to visit my best friend when he lived in Champaign (I actually wound up blaring that song with the windows down when I went through Decatur, which was a huge mistake because that city was… well, stinky.). “The Mistress Witch of McClure” would play in between class times as I waited for my next class to come in and take their seats. Slowly, this wonderfully talented musician began to permeate my life, and I wasn’t even entirely aware of it.

Since then, my love for Sufjan and his music has only grown deeper. I’ve found solace and energy (depending on my day) in “Too Much.” I wouldn’t stop replaying “All The Trees In the Field Will Clap Their Hands” when I drove 2 hours to my student’s funeral. “Djohariah” became a song to cocoon myself in to help me be creative or contemplative. I learned more about Sufjan and dug more deeply into the lyrics. I felt a connection to the spirit he projects in his music. He’s actually the reason I’ve become so interested in the state of Michigan and the Great Lakes. His words and music have made me challenge myself to become a better writer and artist. Being opened to his material because of my husband has opened my world in such a profound way.

Fast forward to April 2015 – Sufjan was in St. Louis, and I was lucky enough to get to go this time around. I was so excited and nervous – I had waited 6 years to see him play live, and I wasn’t sure what to expect (aside from awesomeness). The tickets I wound up scoring back in January put us up on the left mezzanine, which wouldn’t bother most people; however, I’m terrified of heights, and the seating was… well, high and steep.

But once Sufjan walked on stage, sat down at his piano, and began playing “Redford” and then “Death With Dignity,” the world stopped spinning. I promised I wouldn’t cry, but I couldn’t help it. The music was so beautiful, and it was so surreal to be listening to my favorite musician sing and perform in front of me. I was just overwhelmed with beauty and a spirit of gratitude.

I originally had wanted to write out my whole experience about the concert, but I honestly never got around to it. I did, however, write one thing about the concert the day after. It was oddly enough about one of my least favorite songs, but the effect was so powerful that I had to write it down. Here’s what I had written:

“Then came “Blue Bucket of Gold,” which, before the concert, was probably my least favorite track on the new album. Ethereal chords echoed all around us as cerulean lights lit up the venue, focusing on the large dome in the ceiling and creating a calming, rippling effect. Immediately, my mind was transported to Lake Superior with its dazzling diamond-like sparkles and clean, clear blue waters. Then the opening chords came in, and Sufjan began to sing as the background lit up of a happy young boy playing and running at the beach and in the ocean. This naturally subdued song came to life each time after Sufjan sang, “Or raise your red flag, just when I want you in my life” with thundering percussion that commands your attention like a springtime thunderstorm.

“I wondered how long the haunting ending section would build as we neared the end of the lyrical portion, and to be honest, it went a different way than I thought it would. In the album, it’s quiet repetition, like a prayer. That night, though, my mind was blown. The lights vanished only to be replaced by large, rotating, blinking disco-like lights, making it look like the sun dancing on deep dark waters. The ending chords played on beautifully as the lights rotated in different directions. Soon, more sounds and instruments slowly worked their ways in until the percussion began to pitter-patter in the background, as if testing its welcome. It began to crescendo, and the lights came on, shining and blinking in radiant colors in every which way until the entire stage and even the background were flashing neurotically with color and light. I squinted toward the stage as the melody carried on and the cymbals crashed, thinking, “Surely, this is what it must feel like to die.” Maybe a dying person sees flashes of light and color, noises and voices of their loved ones, the last chords of a peaceful song playing in their mind as the percussion of light bounces about and begins to take them away slowly.

“Just when I thought my brain couldn’t take in anymore, the song pulled back and drifted slowly away until there was only Sufjan playing subdued chords on his keyboard. All of Peabody Opera House erupted in cheers and applause as the lights went down and we hoped for an encore (which, thankfully, we got!).”

Anyway, this post was way longer than I intended it to be. Sufjan, I don’t know if you’re ever going to read this, and it’s okay if you don’t, but I hope you have an amazing day, and thank you from the deepest regions of my heart for sharing your talent with the world. You have changed my world, given me new experiences, and given me so much courage to face my fears. For that, I am eternally grateful.

And with that, IggyNapster is back. 🙂

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