When you come out of a great gig, the reverberations stay with you for a long time afterwards… So I’m still buzzing from Sufjan Stevens – following on from the previous posting, yes, I got a return ticket – lucky me! It was magnificent, epic, powerful – everything you could hope for. Visually dazzling (lighting, back projections); sonically awesome – a finale that grew to such a crescendo (including Nico Muhly blasting out on the Festival Hall organ) that we were literally shaking in our seats. Plus a post-encore mini-set that was almost another gig in its own right. And at the heart of it, moving, searingly honest songs of love, loss, regret and hope. A celebration, indeed, in the end.
No pictures during the gig (this was a spell not to be broken) but I did take some around the Southbank before and after, of all the weather we’ve been having – rain, rain, heavy rain… Afterwards, I hung around the Festival Hall for a little while, not wanting to let the moment go – amazing how quickly it empties and returns to hushed, carpeted stillness.
Both of them are playing tonight – which would you rather go and see? Sufjan Stevens is at the Royal Festival Hall, Diane Birch at Joe’s Pub, NYC. I don’t have tickets for either of them unfortunately (SS sold out in seconds, and I’m not in New York…). Wherever my listening takes me, these two I can always come back to – something connects, and they make me feel elated and re-charged (well, in Sufjan’s case, maybe depressed and terrible first and then elated).
I love what it says about Sufjan on his website:
“SS mixes autobiography, religious fantasy and regional history to create folk songs of grand proportions.”
That explains it! The ingredients he’s putting together are different to anyone else’s. I find his music melodic, almost child-like sometimes (not a criticism); accessible but mysterious, direct but enigmatic; epic but concerned with the world of the interior, the heart, the spirit, the mind… Sometimes I find there’s an ‘enclosed beauty’ about his sound-world – the equivalent of a Samuel Palmer painting (what with that and the biblical imagery). He never shouts; and there’s something intangible, like we’re heading to an unknown region…
Diane Birch – well, what can I say? She’s just a wonderful talent, you might say in the old school way. She writes great songs, plays and sings fantastically. It just does you good to listen to somebody with so much to give. Apparently she hung out in London for a year or two before her first album was released, honing her craft – how did I miss her? She’s been a bit quiet of late – let’s see what comes next…
Postscript – for what actually happened later, see above!