The Spring and Airbrake, Belfast
13 October 2005
After the release of his latest record, Illinois, Sufjan (pronounced Soof-yan) Stevens has become something of an underground phenomenon. His name is regularly followed by the phrase ‘the-next-big-thing’. He’s sold out three consecutive dates in London on his current tour and last night sold out Belfast.
Backed by his six-piece band, all decked in orange and navy cheer-leading gear, Sufjan took us on a tour of Michigan and Illinois, through the small towns of Jacksonville and Dakota to the big cities of Detroit and Chicago. They were choreographed to perfection. Before many of the songs he led a cheer, “give us a J! Give us an A! Give us a C! Give us an K! Give us an S! Give us an O! Give us an N! Give us a VILLE! Whaddawe got? JACKSONVILLE” Not being a native American raised on pom-poms and cheers, this was all rather novel. It’s certainly the first time I’ve seen cheerleaders at a gig.
Oh and the music was great too. Trumpets, banjo’s organs, the whole works. The songs mutated live from their recorded versions with different intros and extended endings. They played quite a short set, but covering most of Illinois, with a couple from Seven Swans and Michigan.
The band were polished and professional. The audience were not. The mix was quite low, and Sufjan sings softly at the best of times, so loud shhh’s were frequently ordered, but people continued to talk anyway, and the bar kept smashing glass. The crowded venue added to the excitement but, at the same time detracted from a good performance by Sufjan and his cheerleaders.