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Show Review: Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens
The Lyric Theater crowd enjoyed every spin of the Wheel of Christmas during Sufjan Stevens’s holiday extravaganza.

Sufjan Stevens’s Christmas Sing-A-Long Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant On Ice unites Lyric crowd in yuletide cheer

By Ben Hurston, Student, Meek School of Journalism & New Media
If you were on the Square anytime between 6 p.m. and midnight yesterday (November 28, 2012), you might have wondered if you had magically jumped forward in time four weeks.
Waiting for hours in a line that wrapped past South Depot Taco Shop and down South 11th, hundreds of festively dressed fans congregated at the Lyric to witness indie sensation Sufjan Stevens in all his bizarre Christmas glory.
The event’s official title, Sufjan Stevens’s Christmas Sing-A-Long Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant On Ice, couldn’t better describe the night’s festivities – except for the “Ice” part, which, Stevens joked, had to be scrapped due to budgeting issues.

Oh, Jamminbaum

The nearly three-hour set included everything Stevens’s untamed mind could imagine (and fit on one tour bus): a capella hymns, punk rock jams, acoustic ballads, Christmas stories, kazoos, streamers, a bubble machine, inflatable Santas, balloon animals, a comedic sketch, and an outrageously electronic cover of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” which saw Stevens prancing around the stage dressed as a unicorn while confetti rained down on the audience.
Stevens and his eccentrically dressed band were having more fun than anyone. Dressed as a nun, a snowman, a Smurf Santa Claus, a skeleton, a superman/chicken combination, and, of course, a Christmas unicorn, they alternated between original material—taken from the 10 Christmas EPs Stevens has recorded over the last decade—and traditional Christmas tunes. The latter saw the entire audience singing along in unison.

Holiday Obsession

The stage was set around the enormous “Wheel of Christmas” that Stevens and his team created for the tour. Audience members were chosen at intervals in the show to go onstage, spin the wheel, and determine which song the crowd would join together to sing.
The spectacle couldn’t have been more over the top, yet it also had a deceivingly reverent tone, as if Stevens, a practicing Christian, was trying to summon the kind of joy that might be expressed in the modern times at the coming of a savior. If that were his goal, he certainly was smart to stop in the heart of the Bible Belt. When Stevens and his band began an a capella version of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” the crowd responded by singing every word in an unprompted sing-along. I can’t imagine Stevens would have gotten the same response at home in Brooklyn, New York.
At one point during the night, Stevens told the audience that his interest in the season had originated as a result of his dislike for Christmas music. Judging by last night, that dislike has since evolved into uncontrollable enthusiasm. It seems likely that we have not yet seen the end of Sufjan Stevens’s holiday obsession.
Songs for Christmas and Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vols. 6-10 are available now on Asthmatic Kitty Records.

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