Sufjan Stevens Halloween Concert at Loew’s Landmark Jersey Theatre

sufjan-stevensIn an evening where the New York – New Jersey masses masqueraded under the dusty dark neo-French baroque shadows of the Landmark Loews Jersey City Theatre, Sufjan Stevens was unfiltered and personal.

Presenting the entirety of his latest and greatest album, ‘Carrie & Lowell‘ (released March 31, 2015 via Asthmatic Kitty), Suf’s Halloween concert provided few surprises (save the notable quirky and charming Sufjan Stevens “Hotline Bling” cover alongside the impossibly silky and unstoppable falsetto of R&B opener Gallant). Written as an album-length exploration of the prolonged trauma that struck Sufjan following the death of his troubled and at-times-estranged mother, ‘Carrie & Lowell‘ listens like the musical equivalent of a home movie – snippets of sound that intrigue and repel outsiders in their grainy simplicity.

Sufjan performs with a small band before a backdrop of several long, thin screens that project images of either landscapes or home movies. As an ensemble, the screens form a picket fence, and the rapt audience watches, invested in the singer’s soft bruised-wing-of-a-voice delivery, becoming neighbors in grief.

With minimal reverb, and a small band of keen multi-instrumentalists, Sufjan’s show, in all its crackly rawness, had the air of an acoustic show among friends, despite the capacity crowd at the cavernous 3,000 seat Loew’s Theatre. In “Eugene“, Sufjan’s voice became a whisper, stumbling through lyrics as the crowd completed the lines.

In the final encore before Sufjan’s Drake moves of the night bubbled beyond the emotionally tense surface, “Chicago,” played in a spare, acoustic version, sounded like a prayer; “I made a lot of mistakes” reverberating silently across the thousands in attendance, all of us like Stevens, despite our costumes, emotionally naked on Halloween.

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About Matthew Herzfeld

Matt Herzfeld is a freelance writer, music supervisor and musician, and serves as Music Project Manager for the French Music Office at the French Embassy in the US. He is based in New York City.
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