The Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts was a bustling scene for the Friday night show of Sufjan Stevens. Fans both young and old(er) alike anxiously stood in lines for vinyls, shirts and drinks before the show began.
The Center itself is a beautiful monument to modern architecture, a seemingly perfect venue to host Sufjan Steven’s and opener Gallant. A beautiful stairway facing the front entrance, all employees kind and eager to assist, well lit and tastefully arranged, I felt lucky yet welcomed in such a place.
Opening act Gallant, an Alt-R&B group fronted by Christopher Gallant, initiated the show with palpable energy and a groove that was maintained throughout the set. Dipping down during more sensual, intimate moments, Gallant controlled the crowd.
Hailing from Colombia, MD, Gallant carries with him a breathtaking falsetto that pierces the room and soothes it mutually. Pacing the stage in fervent strides, Gallant poured himself upon the stage, soaking the crowd in deep soul. The alternative musical arrangements paired with a smooth falsetto that Gallant has gained his acclaim for, achieves where so many of his peers have failed. Authentic and honest, his form of R&B isn’t forced, it does not attempt to appear young and new, Gallant is an act to witness. His charisma and the energy produced, alongside soul and haunting falsetto make Gallant the R&B I have been waiting for – growth from the old masters of R&B in the best way.
After a brief intermission, Sufjan Steven’s manifested on stage. Opening the show with the instrumental track “Redford” off his popular album Michigan in almost complete darkness. Able to make out the man as red lights slowly raised, Sufjan Steven’s sat calmly at a piano. Taking center stage alone, Sufjan played “Death with Dignity” off the recent release, Carrie and Lowell. Showing the prose of his songwriting, alone beneath calm lights, Sufjan held the filled theater with a guitar and his hallowed voice.
The band accentuated behind him, yet this was a personal performance. Carrie and Lowell is a complex record dealing with his relationship, or lack thereof, with his mother Carrie. Honest, dark, personal, Sufjan does not attempt to dramatize his performance, like he did while touring Age of Adz. Playing in front of a spliced screen of family home videos, Sufjan is placed before us. Playing a majority of Carrie and Lowell (Death and Dignity, Should Have Known Better, All of Me Wants All of You, The Only Thing, The Only Thing, Fourth of July, No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross, Carrie and Lowell, Drawn to Blood, Eugene, Blue Bucket of Gold) Sufjan supported his newest album, but it seemed as if he was working through the album, as if he was healing through the tour and performance of the album.
Not neglecting what the fans wanted to hear, Playing off Age of Adz (Futile Devices, Vesuvius) Seven Swans (To be Alone With You) All Delighted People (Heirloom) and the popular, Illinois (Concerning the UFO sighting near Highland, Illinois, John Wayne Gacy Jr., Chicago). While beginning Chicago, The crowd erupted in such applause Sufjan had to stop playing, smiling and happy, to thank the crowd; then replaced the lyric “Chicago” with “Orlando.”
In the end, after the sorrowful, somber, and heartfelt emotional ride of the show, Gallant came back onstage and Sufjan Stevens and Gallant came together and covered the extremely popular Drake song “Hotline Bling.” This joyful and fun song was just what was need to release the crowd to enjoy the rest of their evening without taking the pain that makes Carrie and Lowell such a powerful piece of music. If you didn’t make it to the show, I recommend finding the next date and driving however far you need to in order to witness it. Rarely is a performance as personal and meaningful.
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