Who was fortunate enough to see Sufjan Stevens last week?
Opener My Brightest Diamond, who SFist Emily interviewed last week, started the show looking like Santa's little helper in a crimson cocktail dress. She soared through a short but fulfilling set, playing piano or some gorgeous guitars with backing players on violin and cello. She has a powerful voice that goes from guttural to fluttering in an instant; fans of Tori Amos should definitely give her a listen. The crowd seemed to enjoy her set, and after it was over we saw several people run out to the lobby and return with vinyl copies of her album.
After a lengthy break, the stage began to fill with people in matching pants, shirts and vibrant, diaphanous butterfly wings. The Butterfly Brigade picked up their strings, horns, drumsticks and guitars and waited. A choir dressed in all black (whom Sufjan later introduced as the Pacific Mozart Ensemble) assembled in the corner, Shara (a.k.a. My Brightest Diamond) stood ready with her guitar, and we counted nearly 40 people onstage. After a moment Sufjan took the stage also in uniform and wings (his looked more like an eagle's), and played for the next two hours or so, switching from piano to guitar to banjo and back.
The show was a full production, with visuals for each song and props for the audience. Inflatable Supermen rained down from the top balcony for the first song, and later on inflatable Santas were dropped on the audience too. There wasn't a whole lot of conversation from Sufjan; mostly he just played and sang gently with the biggest band he'd ever performed with. When he wasn't singing, he listened intently to the music, gently rocking in a way that made his eagle wings pulse back and forth. At times we reeled at the civilized cacophony and marvelled at the orchestration. The choir added expertly to the exuberance. But it was a special treat when Sufjan brought out just a few players for the encore, dressed down in t-shirts and jeans, and broke down a few of our favorite songs to just guitar and his delicate, heartbreaking voice.
If you saw one of the shows, or have photos you'd like to share, tell us about it in the comments. Check out this search on Flickr for several photos from the show.