Live Review: Sufjan Stevens at The Orpheum Theater; Conor Oberst hospitalized, Desa tour cancelled…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:40 pm October 29, 2015
Sufjan Stevens at The Orpheum, Oct. 28, 2015.

Sufjan Stevens at The Orpheum, Oct. 28, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I warned you it was going to be a first-class bummer.

If you came to last night’s Sufjan Stevens concert at a nearly sold out Orpheum Theater and expected a career retrospective performance you probably left disappointed, but really, what did you expect? The guy is out supporting his new album Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty, 2015). Did you really think he was going to play all your faves off the Illinoise and Michigan albums?

C&L has been lauded as a career high-water mark for Stevens. It’s the third highest-rated album for 2015 in the Album of the Year composite list. Critics love it. I wanted to love it, but I’ve managed to work my way through the collection only a handful of times. It’s not so much that the theme — a survivor’s elegy to a dead mother and a prolonged meditation on the inevitability of death — is too depressing (a large share of Stevens’ catalog is mournful), it’s that the songs can be somewhat boring and lack the variety heard on earlier records.

That said, Stevens managed to liven up the songs’ arrangements on stage for a concert almost solely dedicated to a dreary album. Nearly every song started with Stevens glowing in a single overhead spotlight while he sang in his trademark twee coo, meticulously picking out an intricate guitar line on an acoustic. Behind him, massive video screens in the shape of cathedral-style cut-outs showed serene landscapes or seascapes or Super 8-style home movie footage of him or his parents in happier times.

The rest of the band, a talented four-piece on keyboards, strings, horns and percussion, slowly crept in by the second verse, eventually building each number to a full-on symphonic rage that came back to Stevens standing in that lone spotlight. Beautiful stuff, but as the person sitting next to me said, “Doesn’t he have any upbeat songs?” My whispered response: Wait until the encore.

Sufjan Stevens at The Orpheum Oct. 28, 2015.

Sufjan Stevens at The Orpheum Oct. 28, 2015.

There were a few songs that broke the mold, including a blistering version of “Vesuvius” from The Age of Adz and a throbbing reinvention of “All of Me Wants All of You” from C&L that was a show highlight along the main set-closer — a 10-minute-long noise collage at the end of “Blue Bucket of Gold” that, when combined with a startling lighting effect, felt like swimming underwater during a hurricane.

If there’s a quibble it was with the sound mix. There was too much delay in Stevens’ vocals during the first half of his set, leaving his usually clean, pristine-sounding lyrics indecipherable. They got it figured out by the end.

After a standing ovation and a brief pause, Stevens came out for an encore that included older fan favorites like “Holland” off the Michigan album, which I haven’t seen on any of his other set lists, a version of “Concerning the UFO sightings Near Highland, Illinois,”  a great take on one of my faves, “Casimir Pulaski Day,” and a stunning version of “Chicago” that left the crowd wanting more.

The show started right at 7:30 with a half-hour set by Gallant, an LA-based R&B singer whose style wasn’t my thing, though he had a fantastic backing band (especially the guitarist, who blazed throughout the set). It was a strange choice for an opener, but I’ve come to expect odd parings when I see artists at The Orpheum. I guess it’s better than no opener at all, right?

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By now you’ve already heard that Desaparecidos’ tour has been cancelled. The band issued a statement yesterday saying Conor Oberst fell ill on tour while in Jacksonville, Florida, and was briefly hospitalized due to laryngitis, exhaustion and anxiety. In consultation with Oberst’s doctor the band “reluctantly agreed” to cancel all scheduled live dates. “Conor will be heading home to Omaha to recuperate.”

In addition to the O’Leaver’s gig, the cancellation includes the Dec. 2 Oberst solo gig as part of the Ground Control Touring 15th Anniversary show at Webster Hall in NYC.

Here’s hoping Mr. Oberst gets back on his feet soon. Ain’t nothing more valuable than your health.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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PUJOL now on Bartertowncoop?; new Anna McClellan tape; Sufjan Stevens, Gallant tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 6:45 am October 28, 2015
Sufjan Stevens takes flight tonight at The Orpheum Theater.

Sufjan Stevens takes flight tonight at The Orpheum Theater.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

What are we to make of the fact that PUJOL has a new EP called Kisses coming out on Bartertowncoop rather than Saddle Creek Records? Well, it shouldn’t be a big surprise. PUJOL is a rather prolific artist and has released stuff on multiple labels over his career. No doubt Bartertowncoop offered a release date that aligned with the upcoming Black Friday Records Store Day promotion Nov. 27 (which is when the album is slated to drop). Check out the first single from the EP below.

That’s not big news, but there hasn’t been much news going on lately.

Look for an announcement in these here online pages about a new venue opening next month. Will it be a game-changer? Maybe, maybe… I think so, considering who’s involved, but more on that latter.

I’ve been meaning to share this new video by ex-Omahan Anna McClellan (you remember her from Howard) that I first spied on the Hear Nebraska website. I rarely share new video tracks, but this one is pretty inspiring and marks a new direction for McClellan, who has a new cassette/download out on Ryan Fox’s Majestic Litter label (which you can order right here for a mere $7). This is one of my favorites so far for the third quarter ’15. I’m told McClellan is now living somewhere in New York. Anna, what happened to those gigantic glasses you used to wear?

Well, tonight I’ll be sitting with some of you at the Sufjan Stevens concert at The Orpheum Theater. Last I looked, tickets were still available for a variety of prices starting at around $41.

I suspect this could be a pretty gloomy affair. Have you heard his new album, Carrie & Lowell? It’s about as much of a downer as you’d expect from an record that’s about the death of Stevens’ mother. Based on the set list from last night’s performance at The Paramount Theater in Denver (which you can see here), we’ll be getting a performance of the new album in its entirety, plus one or two from Illinoise, The Age of Adz and  Seven Swans during the encore. Bring your Kleenix.

Opening for Sufjan is LA performer Gallant.

This is listed on the Ticket Omaha website as having a 7:30 start time, which seems odd. See you there.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Jeremy Messersmith house show; Sufjan Stevens, Low headed our way; Wilco giveaway; Author, Good Living North Platte tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:43 pm July 21, 2015

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I typically don’t write about upcoming shows, but there are a few that have just been announced that are under the radar.

First among them is a house show featuring Jeremy Messersmith Tuesday, Aug. 4, at a “midtown” location (You’ll find out where presumably when you buy your ticket). Messersmith is calling this his “Supper Club Tour.” Says Messersmith: “I want you to bring the food. But not just any food! I want to try your best, most mouthwatering dishes; the kind passed down through battered cookbooks, the kind that you’ve sworn to keep secret. I want to provide a soundtrack while you sample a feast the likes of which will never be seen again.” Mmmm. You can purchase your $20 tickets right here. I gotta believe space is limited…

Also announced today:

Sufjan Stevens is returning to Omaha, this time to the Orpheum Oct. 28. The last time he came through town with his band was way back in September 2005. From the review of that show:

Sufjan Stevens at Sokol Underground, Sept. 20, 2005.

Sufjan Stevens at Sokol Underground, Sept. 20, 2005.

Packed it was last night at Sokol Underground. It was sold out, and we’ll leave it at that. Packed from stage to the merch table, wall to wall, a mass of humanity come to see Sufjan Stevens and his 8-person band of cheerleader musicians dressed in their Big “I” T-shirts, some holding pompoms, all playing a myriad of instruments, most singing. The pompoms weren’t mere props. Stevens and crew began four or five songs with well-choreographed cheers, complete with arm signals and spirit fingers. It was that kind of set, a goodhearted rah-rah for ol’ Illinois, all in celebration of his second “state LP,” this one dedicated to The Prairie State.

Seriously, at times it was like listening to a choir led by a little guy in a Cubs hat with a voice that was a morph of Art Garfunkel and Ben Gibbard singing lullabies to Jacksonville, Decatur and Chicago. I didn’t know what to expect from the arrangements, I knew Stevens would be hard-pressed to recreate the lushness heard on the CD. But by God, he captured the majesty thanks to the glockenspiels and brass (especially his trumpet player) and keyboards and battery of percussion and those four female cheerleaders whose angel-voices made the whole thing float. Listening to Come on Feel The Illinoise as I write this after the show, I think everything was a tad funkier live, especially “Decatur,” which sported a nice bass riff and finger snaps and probably some sort of synchronized cheer-dance. After playing high school pep-rally standard “Varsity,” the band came back and did a one-song encore that nicely rounded off the hour-long set.

It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Considering the overall glumness of his new record, Carrie & Lowell, I don’t expect the Orpheum show to be as light-hearted. Still, this is must-see stuff. Presale tickets available here beginning tomorrow at 10 a.m.

Another must-see show announced today, Low plays Reverb Lounge Nov. 12.

* * *

If you haven’t seen it, the Wall Street Journal chimed in on Wilco giving away digital downloads of their latest album, Star Wars. You can download the album for free from here. Says the WSJ: “The popularity of the surprise album release—and Wilco’s decision to offer theirs for free—shows how much less album releases matter to many major artists relative to touring and other revenue streams.” and “… for acts such as Wilco, whose albums sell well but aren’t massive industry blockbusters, touring is the bigger part of the equation.”

This brought up a discussion last night at a dinner, where it was suggested that bands giving away digital versions of their music would become “the norm,” and that bands would rely on a combination of performance income, publishing rights sales (i.e. TV / commercial / movie use) and vinyl sales (and other merch) for the majority of their income. This may be work for established bands like Wilco, but it would likely mean hard times for up-and-coming acts…

* * *

One show of note tonight: Minneapolis four-piece Author plays at Reverb Lounge. Their most recent release, Of Brighter Days, came out this past January (listen to it below). Kind of Washed Out meets Owl City, sort of.  Opening is KC’s The Author and The Illustrator and EKLECTICA. $8, 8 p.m.

Also, the Good Living Tour rolls into North Platte tonight for a show downtown on “The Bricks,” (whatever that is). On the bill: A Ferocious Jungle Cat, Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies and M34N STR33T. Oh my, what those railroaders are in for… The free show starts at 8 and is all ages.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Fall tours going on, Kasher’s Cold Love; Tapes ‘n’ Tapes, Touch People, AYGAMG tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:49 pm August 19, 2010

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

My mailbox is becoming crowded with fall tour information. You can check out the Merge tour schedules on the webboard here. There are only two Omaha dates — The Love Language opening for Local Natives Sept. 30 at The Waiting Room, and She & Him at The Anchor Inn Aug. 28. Arcade Fire has no Midwest dates.

HitFix has an interesting list of “10 Indie Rock Tours to Get Excited About.” No. 1 is Conor and the Felice Brothers.*yawn* The most intriguing is No. 3, Sufjan Stevens. How’s those states albums coming along, bro? The closest he’s coming to Omaha is KC’s Uptown Theater Oct. 17.

Tim Kasher also announced some tour dates — four to be exact, nowhere near here (though since he lives here now, you never know where he might pop up with a guitar) — along with releasing his first track from The Game of Monogamy for streaming, called “Cold Love” (listen to it here). It sounds like a Good Life song, right down to the mopey lyrics, which Kasher told SPIN,  are “mostly, [about] really boring sex, couples who have run out of steam in their relationships, whose sex life is reduced to going through the motions,” and that laments a “vanilla existence.” Yikes. Ever wonder what would have happened to Kasher’s career if he’d gotten married and had three kids and lived in a big house in Dundee? Thankfully, it sounds like he’s miserable, which, of course, means more music for the rest of us (what would he possibly sing about if he were happy?).

* * *

Two shows tonight:

Tapes ‘n’ Tapes are playing at The Waiting Room tonight. Just as interesting are the openers. Broken Spindles — Joel Petersen of The Faint’s “side project.” And Touch People, a new electronic project that has a new vinyl-only record out on The Faint’s blank.wav label, which you’ll likely be hearing tracks from tonight. $12, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, down at Slowdown Jr., Midwest Dilemma is headlining a show with Kyle Harvey that’s also a CD release show for ukelele singer/songwriter phenom Rebecca Lowry’s project All Young Girls Are Machine Guns, whose debut, Secret Attic Recordings, is being released by Harvey’s Slo-Fi Records. Backing Lowry on stage is drummer Scott Zimmerman and upright-bass player Travis Sing. $5, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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