Show Review & Photos: Sufjan Stevens at the Georgia Theatre, 11/26/12

Sufjan’s Christmas Miracle

Probably the strangest Christmas gift I ever got was the E.T. soundtrack on cassette from my grandmother, when I was 21 or so. Granny was a few years late, but I’m no one to talk as it was just last year that I gifted myself with Sufjan Stevens’s 2006 Songs for Christmas. It has been the hap happiest season of all ever since. Who knew a short year later he would be back with more yuletide magic, the six disc set Silver & Gold. And even better, he and his kooky Christmess caravan are pulling into a town near you with a musical extravaganza that has concertgoers reveling in a virtual snow globe of holiday fun.

Celebrating the time of year when the suspension of disbelief makes all things possible, even overcoming the ghosts of Christmases past, a tinseled Stevens led the parade, a sort of musical Santa’s workshop: audience members were showered with snow-fetti, inflatable unicorns, Santas and bouncing red balls. They were also called on to sing along aided by songbooks and the wheel of Christmas (rivaled in size only by U2’s Lemon from the Achtung Baby tour) spun by the Xmess band members and volunteers from the crowd.

The audaciously meaningful “Christmas Unicorn” (don’t trouble yourself wondering what a Christmas unicorn is, it just is, and you are one) was a scene stealer, as was the onstage banter between Sufjan and Rosie Thomas. Plowing thru seasonal hits and new tracks with frolicsome verve and even a little Neil Young Live Rust guitar at times, the song selection and the talented band did not disappoint. The banjo emerged and personal favorites from the original Christmas set were featured as things quieted down: a pitch perfect version of “That was the worst Christmas ever!” had hearts swelling, or at least this one: “In time the snow will rise, in time the lord will rise.”

Pausing the seasonal merriment, Sufjan, truly enjoying himself it seemed, delighted the crowd, who sang along, every word, with favorites from Michigan and Illinoise: a plaintive, beautifully sung “Widows in paradise” (something to realize about Sufjan: he has an amazing voice, a fact underlined in a live performance), the ethereal “Concerning the UFO sighting near Highland, Illinois”, a fully trumpeted “Chicago” that brought the house down, and the touching “Casimir Pulaski Day”. And then it was back to Christmas, with the show stopping, tear inducing title track “Silver and Gold”, so gorgeous it rose above the rafters and even the Christmas wheel with its message of living for something more, of hoping to recognize the intangible moments that have meaning for eternity:

“Justice delivers its gift here on earth.”

The hopes and fears of all the years were met, if briefly, for some in a typical concert venue this night. The joy spilled onto the streets- people’s faces were literally glowing with a common light that had been captured in a night of wassailing, minus the wassail. The beauty of a singer and his songs, the ability of song to lift spirits, to transcend cold realities and seasonal disorders that might last year round, was seen in the face of the band leader, one Sufjan Stevens: Christmas genius- tobogganed, tinseled, neon taped, playing skillfully and sharing his heart with the masses, who held it gently and happily. Pretty magical. Well, miraculous, really.

Want to see more photos? Head over to our photographer William Haun’s Flickr feed.