Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sufjan Stevens - Cabaret La Tulipe - 9/9/05

Last night, my friend, Josh, who writes Latitude 44.2 and I headed up to Montreal to catch Sufjan Stevens sing to the Canadians about the US (Any Canucks stepping up to do the "13 Provinces Project"? I'm looking at you Black Mountain). Since I had only gotten about 3 hours of sleep following the CYHSY/National show, I thought my ass would be dragging but I actually felt pretty good.

However, I still made two mistakes. 1) I thought the show started at 8:30 rather than at 8:00 and 2) I missed the exit for Autoroute 10. Those two screw-ups cost us seeing Laura Veirs open the show. This was disappointing since I had been enjoying Year of Meteors. Conversely, the earlier start time meant we'd be getting back to VT a little earlier which made my body happy.

The show was at Cabaret La Tulipe which is a 90-year-old theater that was recently renovated and re-opened a year ago as a music club. It's a great venue and perhaps my new favorite venue in the area to see shows. The space is tiered with three or four levels plus a balcony. The upper levels have tables and chairs while the lowest level is SRO. Plus, there are multiple bars throughout the space so there aren't any long waits for drinks.

However, the biggest reason for my love of the place is the sound system. It was one of the sharpest and cleanest sounding concerts I've ever heard. When they renovated the place, they must have dumped a lot of money into the system. And hearing Sufjan Stevens in a place with such a great sound board made it one of the best shows I've seen this year. Every instrument could be heard distinctly and Sufjan's vocals were as clear as they are on his albums.

Sufjan and the Illinoise-makers came out on stage in their Univ. of Illinois cheerleading outfits and immediately went into "The 50 State Song". Fun, fun song. It put an immediate smile on my face.

Shortly thereafter, he did his rendition of "The Star Bangled Banner" which I had never heard before. It's amazing and the best version of the song I've ever heard. Fuck Whitney. Sufjan blows her away. I've never even heard anyone attempt the song in this manner. It's a complete re-thinking of the song and yet another testament to Sufjan's brilliance.

The rest of the set focused mainly on Illinois, as expected. We heard "Jacksonville", "Chicago", "Man of Metropolis", "The Tallest Man...", a few cheers and other tunes I've forgotten now. I want to give a lot of props to the crowd. There was not a "chatty Cathy" in the bunch. Nobody talked during the songs. Everyone was there to listen which was a huge pleasure because a number of his songs are soft enough to be ruined by some gum-chewer dronning on about some inconsequential matter. Think about it...great sound talkers...Sufjan Stevens...great combination.

For the encore, Sufjan came out alone dressed in jeans and a Michigan t-shirt and said that he had forgotten about Michigan all night. So, he then played a beautiful version of "Romulus" on the acoustic guitar. I would have like to hear more tunes from his incredibly tight band but "Romulus" was a good way to end a fine night of music.

A few random notes:

  • Sufjan introduced himself by pronouncing his name as Su-fi-an. When we entered Canada, the Canadian border guard asked us what concert we were going to. I said "Suf-yan Stevens". However, after learning the correct pronounciation, I was able to tell the US border guard on the way back, "We saw Su-fi-an Stevens". It turns out that the border guards in both directions are indifferent to the pronunciation since we sailed through both times.
  • I like the fact that the band was dressed in cheerleading uniforms and performed choreographed cheers throughout the show. It's a bit of performance art and a bit silly but I've seen enough rock bands in jeans and t-shirts play shows without ever thinking about how they are entertaining the crowd. Sufjan gives you a full night of entertainment for your buck.
  • I just checked Cabaret La Tulipe's website again and it did say the show would start at 8:30. We got there around 8:45 and Laura Veirs was already done. So, she must have started earlier. Therefore, I'm not taking full responsibility for missing her.
  • I apologize for the crappy photos. Sujan had a smoke machine blowing throughout the show which made using a flash the equivalent of driving in fog with your brights on. But despite the crappy quality, I think you get the idea.
I found mp3 files on other blogs for live versions of "The 50 State Song" and "Star Bangled Banner". Enjoy.

Sufjan Stevens - The 50 State Song (courtesy of Welcome to the M!dwest)

Sufjan Stevens - The Star Bangled Banner (courtesy of Welcome to the M!dwest)


chad said...

I tried listening to Sufjan again. I can't stand it.

What am I missing? I don't think music is merely a matter of taste. I can appreciate music I don't like. But I find his stuff pretty uninspiring and I feel like I have got to be missing some aspect of it.


VTGreen said...

Flatlander - Really enjoyed the reviews of the live shows you recently attended. Looking forward to the Black Keys and hope I can attend as well.

cj howareya said...

Color me colossally jealous. Sounds like a great, great night.

LINK: The Star Spangled Banner link has been replaced by the photo of Bush giving you the finger. I guess the referring site doesn't like links so much.

Don't know what to tell Chad. I can actually quite understand not digging these albums. I just love, love, love em.

Flatlander said...


Thanks for the heads up. The link is now working.