Boston Calling: Sufjan Stevens Turns Up the Passion

By Alex LaRosa:

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Sufjan Stevens performing at Boston Calling. Photo by Ross Ketschke

This afternoon, as the sun began to set over Boston Calling, Sufjan Stevens hit the stage and let his art loose, both in the form of enthusiastic music and thrilling visuals. From the get-go, he made it clear that his normally laid-back demeanor would give way to a wild, festival atmosphere. His band was decked out in brightly colored outfits and Stevens himself was sporting a massive set of glittery wings, although he would change outfits several times during the evening. By the end of the first song, he further demonstrated his passion by laying waste his banjo.

Over the course of his 13-song set, he shifted between energy and meditation. Accompanied by a nine-piece band, he utilized acoustic and electric instruments, as well as a prominent horn section. Stevens displayed his skills in several instruments and interacted with his two dancers and backup singers, even partaking in well rehearsed dance routines.

He also let his video backgrounds do the talking, accompanying his music with artsy, sometimes psychedelic, videos. The lighting equipment also got a workout, flashing brilliantly during his most epic party-like moment, and also employing three massive disco balls.

But perhaps it was Stevens’ extensive wardrobe that highlighted the show. He started the show by matching his backing band, but close to the end of the show, he proceeded to do an enormous glittery robe and headpiece, climbed up a set of glittery stairs, and sang his heart out once again. As the band progressed through one massive song, he changed outfits again and covered himself in balloons.

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Sufjan Stevens smashing a banjo at Boston Calling. Photo by Ross Ketschke

Properly adorned in partying attire, he bounced around the stage and even auto-tuned his voice. The balloon theme continued when five gigantic inflatable tube-men burst from the stage and waved relentlessly back and forth. Finally, much to the joy of the audience, he concluded his set with his song “Chicago X12.”

Being only the second act of the festival, the pressure was on to deliver an exciting show, and Stevens definitely met the expectation. From his destroyed banjo to his outlandish outfits to his true celebratory atmosphere, he took to the stage and left it all up there. His performance is one that surely won’t be forgotten for the rest of this year’s Boston Calling.

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