So much more than that “Hotline Bling”

I sat in a stupor on the edge of my seat, not sure what exactly to focus on.

It is perplexing to think about how Sufjan Stevens creates his music. His voice and picking are signatures for many of his commercially successful songs (and are huge pieces of his latest album, Carrie and Lowell). The combination makes for delicate and emotional songs. The visual background of lights and pictures for each song were set to match the themes of the lyrics and music. His newest release is focused around his mother and stepfather, and so while those songs were performed, pictures and videos from the past (like the images for the album cover) were displayed in the background. That being said, I guess I didn’t realize how complex some of his other stuff was, especially when witnessing them being performed live. The closer was “Blue Bucket of Gold,” a song that definitely caught my attention on Carrie and Lowell. The song, however, took on a whole new life during the live set at the Kentucky Center’s Whitney Hall. His group of musicians, which included the crazy talented Dawn Landes (I had no idea she was born here in Lou), jammed their way through countless instruments, while the lights in the background left the audience nothing short of fixated. After they finished, I remember feeling like I was taking my first breath in several minutes and almost disoriented. It was a surreal sensation.

During the encore, which was acoustic (with the exception of the closer, “Hotline Bling,” where he was joined by Gallant, the opener), he made mention that hitting the higher notes was much easier when he was younger. Stevens turned 40 this past summer, and though his music definitely portrays that of an wizened man who has lived and is confident in what he is doing, it is hard to really picture him as “over the hill” based on the energy and dexterity he exudes while performing.

I’ve been a fan of Sufjan since his state’s album days and definitely binge listened to his current production. Moral of the story: I was very anxious to see this man live. And much to my delight, it was everything I could have imagined.


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