Beautiful Day As U2 Closes Out European Leg in Rome

October 12, 2010

The third leg of U2′s 360 Degrees tour came – appropriately enough – full circle on Friday night, drawing to a close with one final show in Rome, Italy, after starting out in Turin almost exactly two months earlier.

“All I Want Is You” finally made an appearance – albeit in snippet form – attached to a performance of “Bad”…. hopefully, the inclusion hints at a fuller performance of the song in store for a future leg of the tour.  Also included was a debut snippet of Zucchero’s “Senza Una Donna”, attached to “One”.

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Clarinets and Clicking, Woodwinds and Whizzing: Sufjan’s The Age of Adz

October 11, 2010

After a five year streak without a full length album, Sufjan Stevens returns this year with an hour long EP and an LP released within two months of one another.  This new album, The Age of Adz, funnels the excesses of the electro-pop scene into something new and fresh.  Sufjan manages to make the clicking, whirling, and beeping of the modern world sound organic and natural.  Stevens transcends the cold, fluorescent nature of digital composition into a computerized realm where sawtooth leads and autotune are as emotive as wooden instruments.

Adz is an amalgam of Sufjan’s back catalogue.  The techno jumble of Enjoi Your Rabbit and resplendent composition of The BQE are especially prevalent in this work, but the seraphic melodies and jaunty orchestration that are Stevens’ specialty are ubiquitous throughout the album.  Adz brings cohesion to his previous work and seems both a surprising and natural next step in his artistic evolution.

Where electronic music has the tendency to alienate the listener, this album feels intensely spiritual.  His lyrics speak of loss, regret, and the aftermath of growing up.  Even with such substantial subject matter, the overall tone never becomes depressing.  The pervasive mood is pensive and melancholic; it is a reflection on youthful mistakes but never fails to see that hope is lurking around the corner.

Sufjan has not written music this explicitly personal since Seven Swans.  The title of the album and the cover art come from the artist Royal Robertson, and, while not a concept album, it seems to be heavily inspired from Robertson’s art and life.  Robertson was to the art world what Daniel Johnston is to the indie music scene: a simple, tormented man making overtly personal, expressive art in ways far outside the norm.  Each piece of Robertson’s art contains pieces of his experience, and Stevens seems to have taken note.

After listening to Adz, one feels he understands where Sufjan has been for the past five years.  When the world last saw Sufjan, he was young and ambitious; his project of epic proportions , the so-called 50 States Project, was viewed as ambitious albeit a little misguided.  As the state-inspired albums failed to materialize, critics and fans wondered whether Sufjan had lost his creative spirit or become a victim of writer’s block.  In the 25 minute closer to Adz, Impossible Soul, he sings “Seems I got it wrong/ I was chasing after something that was gone to the black of night/ now I know it’s not what I wanted at all.”

Stevens finishes with seemingly unquenchable hope, however.  He sings, “Boy, we can do much more together/ It’s not so impossible.”  After this album, Stevens has proved he can, indeed, do much more and, more importantly, proved to himself it’s not so impossible.  While Adz can be sometimes gaudy in orchestration and hard to follow due to circuitous and lengthy tracks, the record is in the least the capstone of Sufjan’s musical output, if falling somewhat short of masterpiece classification.  At best, it captures in perfect detail where the artist is at the current moment, and, in many ways, that moment is the same for his generation.  This is certainly an album to savor and remember. –Colin Alford

The Age of Adz is out Tuesday, October 12, via Asthmatic Kitty Records.

Portugal Praises the 360 Tour

October 4, 2010

U2 moved closer to the close of the current European leg of the 360 tour with two shows in Coimbra, Portugal. The shows featured several staples of the recent gigs: setlist surprises and switchups, rainy weather, and wondrous snippets.

The sets continue to include samplings of newer songs, including on night two, U2’s debut of a new song, “Boy Falls From The Sky,” a track being used in the Broadway stage production Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark. Some older favorites rotating in and out of the set include standbys like “New Year’s Day” or “Pride” or “I Will Follow.”

The Portugese media generally praised the shows, especially for their accessible and enduring qualities, as one report summarized (translated here): “Above all, U2 still fit and still look genuinely fun on stage, having the spirit of the band, spirit of commitment, public spirit, love music, and the causes.”

Latin Sensation Marre Humbly Pleases

October 1, 2010

When Latin pop sensation Marre walked off the stage last week in Bogota, Colombia you would have thought she was walking out of a routine stop at a Starbucks Coffeehouse. [Read more]