Review by Greg Haymes
When a singer-songwriter performs an entire album’s worth of musical meditations on death and loss, well, you expect the concert to be something of a downer. And alt-pop iconoclast Sufjan Stevens’ recent performance at Albany’s Palace Theatre certainly was no rock & roll dance party, as he played all of the songs from his brand new album, Carrie and Lowell, penned following the death of his estranged mother.
“What is that that song you sing for the dead?” he sang during “Death with Dignity,” the opening song of the show, following the wordless, largely instrumental intro, “Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou).” But there was no one single answer. In fact, songs for the dead filled the first half of the concert, as Stevens and his backing quartet of multi-instrumentalists examined grief and mourning in all its many facets. The intensely personal songs plumbed the depths of emotional turmoil from guilt to despair to anger, and yet ultimately the concert was a glorious, deeply spiritual affirmation of life and faith.
He dealt frankly and nakedly with death, and yet discovered an underlying hope. It was, in one word, majestic.