06 November 2007

The BQE and Mr. Stevens

Sorry for the hiatus, but life gets busy. It's been over a month since I've written and it's been a busy one. Lots of counting money, lots of reading, and lots of Grey's Anatomy, surprisingly.

Last weekend, Jenna and I trained over to NYC for a nice little two day trip filled with being tourists and lusting over the musical stylings of Sufjan Stevens. We, along with Jordan, had the privilege of seeing the world premier of his BQE at BAM and it was magnificent. Pitchfork has a pretty nice write up, but in typical PFM fashion, they can't really like anything. The suite was triumphant and, if I had any musical ability, I would write exactly what Sufjan did. At times it was no different that a typical Sufjan song with its soaring highs followed by a single piano and an abundance of flute runs.

Let me put this out there--I love Sufjan and I am probably a horrible critic because I love nearly everything but I'm trying to be as objective as possible.

The piece was nice, but what impressed me most was that the musicians were obviously enjoying the music and the moment. I was in the third row, right in front of the speaker on the far right (stage left) of the auditorium and I had a great view of the musician's faces and they all, for the most part, were grinning with glee. I, too, was impressed by Sufjan's abilities at the piano. I had always figured he was just pretty good at all the instruments he plays, but he kicked that piano down. The beginning of the suite the curtain was down and all we could see was the film Sufjan had shot, then the curtain lifted half-way and exposed a scrim behind it so the audience could see the shadow of the performers and I assumed Sufjan was conducting but I soon realized he was behind the piano. The piano carried the piece and was the introduction to nearly all of the movements of the suite, I believe there are 8 but I could be mistaken.

After the 30 minute BQE ended, there was a brief intermission and the 2nd half was titled "Sufjan Plays the Hits" and he certainly did. He opened with "Seven Swans"--a personal fav, went to "Concerning the UFO..." and onto others. Sufjan, who is funnier that I had previously imagined, gave humorous introduction to the song "Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head! (Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!)" about every car coming from Detroit and how he had constructed his own personal world industrial history. After "Jacksonville," he played "Casimir Pulaski Day" and John Wayne Gacy, Jr." back-to-back and it was fantastic. "Gacy, Jr." ended with Sufjan and Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond) singing a lovely little "ah-ah" harmony over a subdued banjo rhythm and my heart melted.

After a ridiculous story about oboe camp, flying-oboe-bassoon-wasp-monsters, and morality lessons Sufjan played "The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out To Get Us!," another fav and followed that with "The Barn Owl," a song I had not yet heard and had to do some internet scouring to find out the title. Apparently it's yet to be recorded and possibly for a new album? Am I excited? Yes.

All through they show, I had been a bit disappointed because Sufjan had been a bit subdued and had quietly dazzled me with his musical abilites, but my eyes had beena bit bored. Luckily, before they kicked out "Majesty Snowbird," (my absolute fav) one of the hula-hoopers brought out his trademark wings and my dream was complete. Sufjan, backed by an impressive orchestra, is a force to be reckoned with.

The set finished with a nice "Chicago," and no encore. I was really hoping for "Come On! Feel the Illinoise!" or "Decatur" but there was nothing. It was, all in all, a fantastic show that I'm very glad I got to see.

Along with the show, Jenna and I did some touristy things. We were briefly on the Today Show, Jenna was interviewed by the Channel 2 news about lip plumpers, we spent a few hours in The Met (and we didn't pay, shhh!), and we walked around Central Park for a bit. We ventured through Brooklyn for a bit with Jordan. It was all of our first times to do so, so that was nice. It was a wonderful trip and we're going to try to make it into the city again around Christmas time. Hooray for the north east.


aa said...

my favorite thing (other than the comment about the Met) was your use of the word "glee." my favorite.

sounds like i need to have a listen to this stevens fellow.

Tony said...

I'm jealous that you were in the NYC, with all the RCP. I guess I really need to GWI and check out some of the sufjan stephens(sp? heh, whoops). I am curious about this flying-bassoon-oboe-wasp-thingy. Do tell. POH.

NYC - New York City
RCP - Really Cool People
GWI - Get With It
POH - Peace Out Homie