Search This Blog

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sufjan Stevens: Carrie & Lowell Live


1) Redford (For Yia-Yia And Pappou); 2) Death With Dignity; 3) Should Have Known Better; 4) All Of Me Wants All Of You; 5) John My Beloved; 6) The Only Thing; 7) Fourth Of July; 8) No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross; 9) Carrie & Lowell; 10) Drawn To The Blood; 11) Eugene; 12) Vesuvius; 13) Futile Devices; 14) Blue Bucket Of Gold; 15) Blue Bucket Outro; 16) Hotline Bling.

General verdict: An attempt to make those songs more personal and more cosmic at the same time.

In order to let us know how truly special the Carrie & Lowell experience is to his conscience, Sufjan had one of the shows from the tour recorded, videotaped, and eventually released as his first live album. The title does not lie — this is, indeed, Carrie & Lowell recorded live in its entirety, albeit with the songs in an alternate order, and with a few nods to The Age Of Adz at the end of the show. The idea, however, was not to simply cash in on the critical success, but to emphasize that the intimacy and personality of the C&L songs really only come out properly in a live setting, when the feelings are being directly expressed to somebody, rather than through the hindering medium of the recording studio.

I will be brief, but honest, and, perhaps to the surprise of some of the readers, admit that the idea partially works — the live performances may not be making a much bigger Carrie & Lowell fan out of me, but the unavoidable lack of studio gloss, and particularly the lack of subtly dehumanizing vocal effects, makes the songs more touching, and their protagonist slightly more sympathetic (although I sure wish he'd take that stupid-looking baseball cap off his head while performing). At the same time, there are multiple arrangement changes for particular songs, with extra strings, percussion, and electronics, provided by a large backing band and, again, establishing a stronger bridge between the sparse minimalism of Carrie & Lowell and the psychedelic fuss of The Age Of Adz — like in ʽThe Fourth Of Julyʼ, for instance, which gets a whole brand new Animal Collective-style kaleidoscopic-carnivalesque coda. This, in my opinion, is not necessarily an improvement — but formally, it does present an excuse for the official release of the album.

Rephrasing the above-said, Carrie & Lowell Live is a bit of a contradiction — Sufjan is working at the same time on making these songs even more introspective and psychological, and on expanding their sonic base so that they could be better integrated in his electronic art-pop scheme of things. This culminates at the end, when ʽBlue Bucket Of Goldʼ gradually grows out of its New Age-y shell into a monumental epic, and then gets a twelve-minute «outro» in the form of a post-rockish crescendo, with all the instruments eventually merging into a pile of deafening electro-acoustic noise — nothing we haven't heard before, really, and I would dare say that the crescendo of ʽA Day In The Lifeʼ achieved the same goal in about twenty seconds, but it's not as if Sufjan or his audience were in a hurry, right?

I have absolutely no idea, though, what was the meaning of covering Drake's recent hit ʽHotline Blingʼ as an encore, and with an entirely straight face at that — that Sufjan's idea of humor or something? (You don't need to tell me that he actually likes and endorses the song, my opinion of his artistic integrity is low enough as it is). Things like that only show how thin is the line today between making «bold, but meaningful» artistic moves and ridiculously embarrassing oneself for no reason whatsoever. Anyway, you can always turn the album off before the encore, so we are not going to hold a stupid gaffe like that against the dude. Perhaps it's just the effect of some virus cleverly implanted in the baseball cap.

Finally, I have watched parts of the video, and there is nothing in particular to recommend it over the audio experience — Sufjan's light show and image accompaniment are nothing to lose sleep about, and his own onstage presence is always restrained, so unless you really have the hots for him (he is handsome, isn't he?), it might be just better to listen.

No comments:

Post a Comment