So I saw Cat Power for the first time last week. (Thank God Irene didn’t intervene.) To be honest, I was somewhat disappointed that she didn’t really dive deeper into her discography to pull out some treasures, but it was interesting to hear her new songs. You can read my review of the show on Brooklyn Vegan here.
It was a week of emotional highs and lows. Two of my most-anticipated shows of the summer happened: Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver. At a glance, the two artists don’t seem to have a lot in common other than being at the top of the indie game. But the more I thought about them, the more I began to see similarities.
Both The Age of Adz and Bon Iver Bon Iver are clearly more ambitious albums than their predecessors. Each invoke a bigger, more expansive sound, whether through an added network of noise and effects or simply due to the addition of brass and manpower. With his song titles spanning various geographical locations (many tied to a single state: Wisconsin), Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon has even made an album that seems to pick up on the whole 50 states project where Sufjan left off.
And yet, the shows could hardly have been more different in feel. Where Sufjan’s show at Prospect Park last Wednesday was an absurd display of glow-in-the-dark tape, trippy projections, giant inflatable men (the kind you see waving back and forth at used car lots), and costume changes; Bon Iver’s show was full of restraint, by comparison. What they did have in common was an air of desperate yearning to their performance – the kind that makes for a compelling and convincing show.
Take a listen to some clips.
First, Bon Iver from his show at the United Palace Theatre on August 9th. (Full review here on Brooklyn Vegan.)
A recent Bon Iver show (photo Steven Worster)
Ok. I admit I’m still not into the smooth jazz of “Beth/Rest” from the new album, but as a few people have pointed out to me, I do believe that Vernon is, so I’m willing to indulge him a bit. I’m definitely glad I got to see the indoor show though. I know he started off making music in a cabin, but somehow, gilded interiors and red velvet seats just seem fitting.
“The Wolves (Act I and II)”
Overheard on the train after the show:
Guy: I noticed you didn’t cry at all…
Girl: That’s because I have no feelings. Guy: Oh, yeah. I forgot you’re actually a robot.
Girl: I could totally dance you under the table though.
Now… Sufjan. I saw his second show at Prospect Park last week on August 3rd. (Full review here on Brooklyn Vegan.)
For a while, I was a bit annoyed the weather hadn’t co-operated. But by the end of the 2-hour+ set, I no longer cared that I was soaking wet. As a testimony to the crowd’s dedication, all umbrellas were lowered when Sufjan started, but at least where I was standing, no one budged from their rain-soaked spots for the whole show. I fell in love with Sufjan through Seven Swans, but you know what? I didn’t even miss the earlier material. (ok, so hearing “The Transfiguration” or *gasp* “Sister” would have been awesome, but I have to say, I’m down with The Age of Adz. The more I listen to it, the more I want to listen to it.)
Sufjan Stevens at Prospect Park (photo Jon Uleis)
Was the show perfect? Well no. (You try singing through a mass of balloons after you’ve been dancing for two hours non-stop.)
But it was certainly wild and glorious.
Here are some clips from the show. Listen out for the lovely Cat Martino and DM Stith who contribute vox on a number of the songs.
“The Age of Adz”
“Get Real Get Right”
“Impossible Soul” (shortened version)
"He considered music a liberating force: it liberated him from loneliness, introversion, the dust of the library; it opened the door of his body and allowed his soul to step out into the world to make friends."
- Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being