.

Sufjan Stevens Unveils Ode to NYC Highway With Hula-Hoops, Orchestra

November 2, 2007 1:36 PM ET

Last night, Sufjan Stevens performed at the plush Brooklyn Academy of Music. But when a venue feels compelled to post a sign that reads "Warning: Flashing Strobe Lights During Performance," you know the show isn't geared at rock fans. The singer-songwriter was unveiling his classically informed symphony, The BQE, which was commissioned by BAM's Next Wave festival. Stevens' thirty-minute opus was a tribute to (oddly enough) the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the crumbling eyesore of a highway that slices through the hearts of New York's finest boroughs.

Stevens was backed by an orchestra as well as a regular rock band, which gave The BQE a swinging, pop-informed vibe. There was plenty of spectacle, too: a troupe of hula-hoopers in day-glo costumes twirled and twisted at the lip of the stage as dizzying video projections of cars on the highway flashed from behind. As for the actual music? Pretty brilliant. The seven-part opus could've been mistaken for an instrumental version of a Stevens tune like "Chicago," but peppered with nods to Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," Ravel's hypnotic "Bolero" and the Beatles' "A Day In the Life."

Fans who couldn't get into The BQE were treated to a second set that was dubbed "Sufjan Plays The Hits." From "Jacksonville" to "Chicago" to "Casimir Pulaski Day," the songwriter's standards were enlivened by the orchestra even moreso than his recorded versions, which feature pared-down string and horn sections. At the end of the set, Stevens thanked the crowd, saying, "We hope you got your money's worth." It was hard to disagree.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

prev
Music Main Next
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.

X

We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

More Song Stories entries »
 
www.expandtheroom.com