Sunday night my friend Chinwe and I went to see Sufjan Stevens at the Meyerhoff in Baltimore. There were many weird things about this show that were entirely unrelated to the music itself. First, instead of normal e-tickets that we could print we apparently had something where we went to the venue and swiped the credit card used to pay, which they had positioned past where you had your tickets scanned. That was all kinds of confusing. We wound up going earlier than originally planned in case there was any problem getting the tickets since neither of us had any experience getting tickets at a venue in that manner before.
At any rate it’s a good thing we did because otherwise we would have missed most of the opening act. Nowhere on the tickets nor on the Meyerhoff’s website was there any indication that there was an opening act for the show. Secondly everything we had indicated that it started at 8, so imagine our surprise when it hit 7:30 and the lights went down and people came out on stage. So the audience was half empty as people were still coming in. Very weird.
Also the row in front of us seemed to have very bizarre issues with people sitting in it. Some large group of people who were together kept trying to sit there, then getting up and switching with each other and then eventually deciding they were in the wrong place entirely. After they left some other people tried to sit there but realized they were on the wrong side of the theatre. Finally right before the show some people did sit there, but one of the couples left after about 15 minutes and the other stayed for much longer, but still left before the end of the show. Did these people buy tickets for someone they didn’t know? I’m confused. The row seemed to be some kind of vortex that didn’t want people sitting in it.
As for the actual show itself, the surprise (at least to me) opening act was an R&B singer named Gallant. I actually quite enjoyed his music and he was very into the performance. He was dancing, jumping, and spinning around the stage with a long-corded microphone. I was afraid he was going to get all tangled up in it and hurt himself or land on the mic stand he left laying on the ground during one of his jumps. He managed to leave the stage unscathed though.
As for Sufjan Stevens, if you don’t know his music I don’t really know how to describe it, which is something Chinwe and I were talking about on our way into the show. He also changes up his musical stylings a little with each album making it even harder to pinpoint. Wikipedia lists his music in all of the following genres: indie rock, baroque pop, indie pop, psychedelic folk, and electronica. I am into some of it and not so much into others. I really do like his new album Carrie and Lowell a lot, and I knew he’d focus on playing off of that.
He did end the main part of his set before the encore with some songs that I guess fall into the psychedelic folk genre. I thought of it as a cross between a psychedelic fever dream and the kind of music you hear in the background of underwater sea life nature films. I’m pretty sure you need to be high to enjoy it, and since I definitely wasn’t I could have lived without that portion of the set and been much happier.
Overall I enjoyed the concert, though I’m not sure that I found Sufjan Stevens compelling enough of a performer to see again. His songs are all really melancholy. He pretty much just got up on stage and sang it. There was a lot of production with lights and video, but long time readers of this blog know that doesn’t excite me a whole lot as far as concerts go. It was interesting to see how he and his band moved around on all the various instruments, but not something I’d need to see more than once.
He finally seemed to get a little bit more life in him during the encore. I get why the music doesn’t lend itself to that type of performance overall, but the encore had much more of what I enjoy in live shows. After not saying a single word for the entire first part of the set he stopped to tell stories at the end and finally ended the show by saying he was channeling his favorite spirit animal…Drake. He then proceeded to invite Gallant back out on stage to sing Hotline Bling with him to close out the show. Stories, fun cover songs, collaboration with other artists. Check, check, and check on my list of things I enjoy at concerts.
The whole Hotline Bling thing was entirely ridiculous and fun. I couldn’t stop laughing during the whole thing. If you don’t know Sufjan Stevens or his music it might not seem as crazy as it was because it’s the complete opposite of what the rest of the show was. Someone posted a video of it from a show in New Jersey from the previous night.