LIVE: Sufjan Stevens is Trying to Break Your Heart (6/4/2015)

Carrie & Lowell live is a beautiful bummer

Sufjan Stevens
June 4, 2015
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
Los Angeles, California

Sufjan Stevens has never been known for his dissonance. Though he’s flexed wiry post-punk muscles in the past, and has never shied away from angularity, he built his considerable reputation on coherent stacks of pillowy sounds.

That should change. Just as he has for the duration of his Carrie & Lowell tour, Stevens ended his Thursday night set with album closer “Blue Bucket of Gold.” It’s a beautiful, gentle song on record, a dedication of faith and resilience in the face of death. Live, Stevens and his five-piece band draw the song to a near hush. Two stationary disco balls hide behind the stage’s massive video boards, their light refracted and still. Then, as the group builds away from this moment of incredible stillness, the stage lights begin to pop and flash in every color and the video board goes strobe and the band are suddenly playing at Hecker-like levels of volume and dissonance. It’s death, imagined, and it’s not a horrible thing or a scary thing. It’s tragic and mournful. And it’s incredibly moving in a way that music this abstract rarely is.

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“Blue Bucket of Gold” was the thematic cap of Stevens’ very emotional set at L.A.’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. He played the entirety of this year’s Carrie & Lowell, and at several moments he was so overcome with emotion that he was nearly unable to sing: he flubbed notes and had to catch himself in “Eugene,” and he stopped playing entirely for a suspenseful second in the middle of “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross.”

But the catharsis that came with the Carrie & Lowell songs seemed to loosen him up, too. He was funnier and more easygoing than he had been earlier on the tour, taking the long way around to a joke about Top Gun before launching into the Seven Swans track “Sister.” He even poked fun at his own preoccupation with death and suffering. And then he went and broke our hearts anyway.

Set List

[Set 1]
“Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou)”
“Death With Dignity”
“Should Have Known Better”
“Drawn to the Blood”
“All of Me Wants All of You”
“Eugene”
“John My Beloved”
“The Only Thing”
“Fourth of July”
“No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross”
“Carrie & Lowell”
“The Owl and the Tanager”
“For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti”
“Heirloom”
“To Be Alone With You”
“Futile Devices”
“Sister”
“The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us!”
“Blue Bucket of Gold”

[Encore]
“Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois”
“Chicago”

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