Sufjan Stevens @ Edinburgh Playhouse, 30 August

Live Review by Tom Johnson | 03 Sep 2015

Music is a funny old thing; it’s hard to know what else to say when witnessing the kind of show that Sufjan Stevens delivers tonight. To even try and pull it apart feels like picking at seams that aren’t supposed to be tampered with. This is simply a singular celebration of one man's ability to document life in all its many changeable forms.

Playing every track from new record Carrie & Lowell – with a near-perfect selection of back catalogue additions – he swaps moments of colossal grandeur for a single strained spotlight with such tenacity that it feels almost like audience manipulation; each second of the show is meticulously crafted to extricate every ounce of sentiment that these new songs hold within.

Bolstered by a supremely talented backing band, which this evening includes a special guest turn from The National's Bryce Dessner, Stevens knows exactly when to augment these live incarnations with extra weight, Eugene remains breathlessly bare while All Of Me Wants All Of You is ramped up to include bold electronic flourishes. A ten minute wall of noise signals the end of the main set with a monumental swell that burns through the aisles. 

As on record, it’s Fourth Of July that becomes the resolute centrepiece, five little words repeated with such earnestness they could fill stadiums and shrines as comfortably as concert venues: “We’re all going to die.” Which we are, of course. Thankfully, there are musicians like Sufjan Stevens to pepper remarkable live experiences like this one along our path beforehand. [Tom Johnson]