Sufjan Stevens, Edinburgh International Festival. Review.


The penultimate night of the Edinburgh Festival saw Sufjan Stevens make one of only two UK appearances in support of his extraordinarily intimate album, Carrie and Lowell.

It’s clear that Stevens is something of a perfectionist as the quality of design, lighting, sound, performance and video were all of a standard I have never experienced in a rock performance in the last 35 years.

This was most dramatically realised in Blue Bucket of Gold; the song that brought the main set to a close.  At around 13 minutes long and with a wig out session that built and built and built, with the most beautiful use of mirror balls that is imaginable, this climax to the show simply took the breath away

(Here it is as performed in Columbus earlier this year)

His band is also remarkable, each one a multi instrumentalist, they float around the stage from instrument to instrument with a minimum of fuss as each song emerges, largely, but not exclusively from Carrie and Lowell, (Vesuvius, from the slightly disappointing Age of Adz, was a crowd pleaser).

Had someone dropped a pin in the Edinburgh Playhouse during some of the quieter numbers, in which you could almost hear Stevens’ heart beat, there’d have been a collective groan so absorbed was the audience in this intense and uplifting musical experience.

Once again I have to applaud Fergus Linehan for his vision in bringing so much contemporary music to this festival.  I saw King Creosote, FFS as well as Sufjan, but sadly missed the Anna Calvi show that I had tickets for.

Each one was a life affirming masterpiece in very, very different ways.

On completion of the show Sufjan came back and played an impromptu set that belied his control freakery because it all went Pete Tong during one of the numbers but NOT during John Wayne Gacy Jr, an all time favourite of mine (a murder ballad as he introduced it).

Not heard it?

You are in for a treat when you watch this…

Thank you Sufjan.  Thank you Fergus.  It was monumental.

Unquestionably *****.

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