By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
collar venue, the duo generated more rhythmic stimuli than most first dates tend to achieve, and more than museums see in a lifetime. (Piotr Orlov)
at the Troubadour, July 24
Wearing militia uniforms in shades of patriotism — baseball caps with American-flag patches, flag handkerchiefs tied around
necks — Sufjan Stevens and five fellow Michiganites file onstage to a sold-out house and man their instruments the way Eagle Scouts do a campsite. A map of their home state hangs in the background; Stevens frequently refers to it when, in a timid, pin-drop voice, he branches out into narrative interludes (he’s not just a singer-songwriter, but a fiction writer) concerning places he’s lived in and people he’s known.
Cascading across the at-times-jazzy, at-times-folky Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lake State, a musical picture book invoking Michael Moore–ish themes of candidness,
compassion and camaraderie, Stevens displays virtuoso skill on a range of instruments.
On “For the Widows in Paradise, for the Fatherless in Ypsilanti,” he tenderly plucks a banjo while lamenting in pitch-perfect harmony with rhythm guitarist Shara Worden and glockenspiel player Katrina Kerns, who resemble J. Crew models in long denim skirts and
flip-flops. On “Flint (For the Unemployed and Underpaid),” a solemn ballad about a displaced auto worker afraid of dying alone, his Wurlitzer is sparsely embellished by a one-man horn section.
Stevens riffs about traveling through Michigan in a trailer home with his siblings and a Noah’s ark of animals, and how his dad woke him up in the middle of the night to proclaim, “Hallelujah! Holy is the sound!” (Impromptu ministering surely shaped Seven Swans, an album that conveys religious fervor more genuinely than the Polyphonic Spree’s Jesus Christ Superstar act while still appealing to the mainstream.) Stevens closes with “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a tribute to Lance Armstrong for winning his sixth consecutive Tour de France. Armstrong-like stamina and determination will be required if Stevens is to make good on his promise of recording an album for each of the 50 states. Only 49 left. (Michael Hoinski)