Friday, June 17, 2011

Right Royal Knees-Up

It's not often that a monarch visits our shores, much less that two should show up and spend an evening on the very same security tightened street. While Queen Elizabeth tried out her cúpla focal in Dublin Castle; Sufjan Stevens - the Prince of pageantry and epic song, held court just opposite in the Olympia.

With Stevens it's always a three for one deal; sweet rambling monologues, tensely built orchestration and of course his penchant for symbolic costume thrown in for good measure. Seeing Seven Swans hit its climax as the whole band revealed, out of the darkness, their enormous pairs of wings gracefully spread; set a precedent for the unexpected. Quipping that doses of philosophy, theosophy, anatomy and even some botany would feature; Stevens immersed himself and the audience in his latest album The Age of Adz. The style of which can only be described as slow electronica bursting in to jubilant chants of brass while, oddly enough, utilising some Kanye-esque vocoder. Most certainly a far cry from Come On Feel The Illinoise's strings and banjos. 

The royal theme was coincidentally upheld (not least by Prince Harry's face slapped on an amp) when he mused over the album's inspiration; his late friend, artist Royal Robertson, whose Yellow Submarine-like work provided the visual accompaniment on screen throughout. By way of some explanation it was noted that Royal's own obsessions were primarily outer space, the apocalypse and hot chicks. Resplendently resembling some sort of neon soldiers, with faces luminously painted, they played symphonies lasting fifteen minutes or more that took the audience down to hushed tender tones and back to sheer exuberance with choruses delivered with (actual) confetti. The joyous atmosphere was spurred on by backing singers dancing in synchronicity for the shows duration (à la futuristic Jane Fonda), so it was to rapturous applause that Sufjan himself took a dance break and joined in; shape-shifting without hesitation while explaining his new found love for movement and expression. Knowing that Stevens had suffered near fatal illness in the last year explains the euphoria that surrounds him, letting loose is most definitely the order of the day.

Bold beltings of brass, synths and even a little recorder, meant that the intimate Olympia showcased within touching distance what Stevens longs for the audience to experience. It also allowed one backing singer to make light work of climbing to the rafters. Does Stevens make you wish you were in a psychedelic orchestral-synth combo? Yes. Does he make you wish you had the guts to just dance for the hell of it? Yes. He also proudly proves that confetti, silly string and enormous balloons aren't just for kids' parties; they're for spectacular Wednesday evenings at the Olympia too.

This review was also published in

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