It’s been almost a week since I saw what I can easily say was the best live show I have ever seen. Sufjan Stevens played at Kansas City’s Uptown Theater—one of my very favorite venues for seeing any show—last Sunday, and I’m so glad I decided to go.
Sadly, Sufjan’s new album has gotten a ton of mixed reviews. I’ve always consider Sufjan a visionary, and from what I hear, NPR does the same—he unabashedly shuns what is happening in music to trailblaze his own way, which is evident on his new album. Some critics have given him less-than-stellar reviews because it’s blatantly not Illinoise (for instance, this Chicago Tribune review and this one from Relevant Magazine). However, I can tell you, I was in awe of what he did live.
In fact, I don’t think the album does justice for what Sufjan’s live show can do. I was moved by him. Especially after reading this article on the Stereogum site today. Sufjan explained at the KC show that he had taken a hiatus from his music because he had no inspiration to write. I know from personal experience that trauma in your life can suck everything out of you. Suddenly, the lyrics to Vesuvius are like a lightning bolt to me: “Sufjan, follow your heart, Follow the flame, or fall on the floor. Sufjan, the panic inside, The murdering ghost that you cannot ignore.”
I have so much more respect for him now than I ever did before. I’m glad he followed his heart. I personally can’t wait to see what more he does and hopes he keeps throwing those critics off of his track. He’s writing for himself anyway—not for them. And to me, that’s what being creative is all about.