Review: Sufjan Stevens @ Hamer Hall, Melbourne (26/02/2016)

Sufjan Stevens w/Ngaiire
Friday 26th of February, 2016 – Hamer Hall, Melbourne

Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou)
Death With Dignity
Should Have Known Better
Drawn to the Blood
All of Me Wants All of You
The Only Thing
Fourth of July
No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross
Carrie & Lowell
Futile Devices
Blue Bucket of Gold
For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti
The Dress Looks Nice on You
A Good Man Is Hard to Find
John Wayne Gacy, Jr.
To Be Alone With You
The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us!
Casimir Pulaski Day
Chicago [Acoustic version]

We arrived into the Arts Centre’s Hamer Hall just a tad after Ngaiire begun her set and in true Arts Centre fashion we are told to wait until there is a break between songs before entering the intimate and beautiful venue. Originally from Papua New Guinea but now based in Sydney, the former Australian Idol contestant shares the stage with two other women who are contributing with Synths and use their harmonies to bring it all together. Popular single Once is performed quite raw but is pulled off well, while there are a few vocal-cue misses by Ngaiire which cause a song restart later in the set.

The Hamer Hall is a brilliant choice of venue for Sufjan, especially after his seventh raw and emotional studio album. Tonight’s two hour show is broken into two acts; his latest release Carrie & Lowell which he plays all but one track from and an acoustic frenzy of old favourites.

The songs from Carie and Lowell were inspired by the death of his mother, Carrie along with Stevens’ childhood. Stevens’ mother, who suffered from depression, schizophrenia, and substance abuse, abandoned him when he was a year old. Recording the album provided closure to Sufjan with his mother’s death and the album title also references his stepfather, Lowell.

There are no need for earplugs are tonight’s gig as the Hamer Hall provides a soft and beautiful sound, you can even hear people sharing around a pack of mints with their friends. The imagery on the LED screen panels behind Steven’s and his band compliments the music with animations and scenery

Death With Dignity and Should Have Known Better are early highlights and it isn’t long when everyone is humming along to catchy melody and lyrics of  “We’re all gonna die” in Fourth Of July – death has never sounded so beautiful.

The ultimate finale of Carrie & Lowell and bringing the first set to a closure is Blue Bucket Of Gold. The band follow suit to the lyrics and raise their right hands as the song goes into an unexpected psychedelic outro.

For the second half of the night, the band gather around one microphone and play the Sufjan classics. Sufjan tells the sold out crowd how much of a masterpiece Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life is, he jokes about how death plays a big part in his songwriting and “this is Songs in the Key of Death”.

Sufjan openly talked about his first experience with death, a foster kid at primary school named Opie. He jumped off a bridge and a counselor came to speak to Steven’s class about death and Opie. The counselor “held up Opie’s jacket and said, ‘Opie no longer resides in this jacket’. Then she pointed to his desk which she had brought up on stage and said ‘Opie no longer resides in this desk, but he resides in our hearts, in our spirits, and in our minds”.

Similar to Ngaiire, Steven’s mucks up the vocals and has to restart a To Be Alone With You (I think!), but no one cares and has a bit of a laugh. Chicago caps off a brilliant and beautiful night. It had only been nine months since Sufjan graced our shores last for Vivid Live, let’s hope we have another timely visit again.
Rating: 9.5/10


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