On Sunday night, indie king Sufjan Stevens and his nine-piece band of neon-clad backing musicians/dancers took the stage at the Hollywood Bowl to demonstrate just how he’s become one of the scene’s most revered and enigmatic artists over the years.
For an hour and a half, Stevens — whose most recent album is 2015’s Carrie & Lowell — entertained the masses with songs from throughout his career, as well as some tips on enjoying human existence. Noting that he had toured recently with a collection of songs focusing a bit heavily on death, Stevens promised that, “Tonight we’re gonna sing songs about life.”
And he did just that, as the stage illuminated in rainbows, shimmery, fluttery lights and tones of visual warmth that set the night apart from most other concerts. Stevens, too, wore various quirky outfits such as a balloon suit, a sort-of aluminum foil space suit thing and more — whether bopping around the stage, standing at the piano or strumming acoustic guitar.
Impossible Soul, from the electro-tinged album The Age of Adz, was an easy highlight, swelling and glowing for nearly 20 minutes with all of its emotions, styles, and…this:
A video posted by @rockcellarmag on
As was Chicago:
For the final song of the evening, Stevens and his band jammed out a warm tribute to Prince with a cover of Kiss, as sung by Moses Sumney:
It really was a perfect ending to a perfect headlining set that put on full display what’s made Stevens attain the level of reverence he has around the music business. He does things his own way, and though he’s released a seemingly endless amount of albums (and veered into an endless array of different styles), it all congeals together into a relentlessly engaging and fun live performance that simply must be experienced in person to be fully appreciated.
We’re all in this weird life together, albeit independently of each other, so spending an hour or so with Stevens isn’t a bad way to pass some of that time.
Before all this took place, French-Cuban sisters Ibeyi took the stage and warmed up the crowd with a great set showcasing their tremendous skills, as highlighted on songs like River. After them, Kurt Vile and the Violators acted as direct support for Stevens, the speakers turned way up, the guitars crunchy as Vile and his band jammed through some songs from his handful of records, including the indie/rock radio hit Pretty Pimpin’.
Dressed in a denim jacket outfit that would make Ryan Adams proud, Vile’s roughly hour-long set was met with interest by most in the crowd, though some folks were still settling into their seats by the time his band kicked into gear.
In all, it was a nearly perfect night of music carried out by three disparate-but-complementary acts that each turned in stellar performances.