Sunday, February 11, 2007

I Was In Love With the Place In My Mind, In My Mind

Another asynchronous music note from last week: Sufjan Stevens' first name is pronounced "SOOF-ee-yen". He performed a one-hour set in the Kennedy Center opera house as part of the festivities for the 10th anniversary of their free Millennium Stage performances. Actually getting ahold of one of the free tickets would have required being in town for the ticket distribution, plus apparently getting in line by about 5:30 AM for the 9:00 AM handout, but the Emerson Quartet show that night was a short one and I came downstairs in time to watch a broadcast of Stevens in the lobby. The speakers put out a crummy sound about equivalent to what you'd hear from lawn seats a quarter of a mile away from an outdoor stage but the level of excitement was still a touch higher than you get watching prerecorded material. Stevens sported a beard and sport coat and played piano and guitar, with a mostly acoustic backing ensemble drawn from the opera orchestra; highlights included an uptempo take on "Chicago" in a shimmery woodwind-heavy arrangement, a peppy and Dave Brubeck-y version of "Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head! (Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!)" -- listening to Stevens toss off that run-on song name as though it were a casual word association is a hoot too -- and a grandiose "Majesty Snowbird" that closed things out in an atmosphere akin to overly quirky stadium rock. The only notable downside was the lack of banjos.


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