There was a great deal of uncertainty about what would transpire when a theme-driven alternative folk artist entered the stage, wearing an oversized pair of butterfly wings.
At 9:30p.m. on Sept. 28, Sufjan Stevens took the stage at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby along with a fifteen-man band also sporting the insect accessory.
The set kicked off with the string and brass ensemble, building a crescendo into the Seven Swans track “Sister.” The New Age jazz chaos of the horn section built to an epic array of sound until it was brought back to the soothing piano playing of Sufjan Stevens as he quietly declared, “What the water wants is hurricanes.”
His voice sent a chilling silence across the theater that filled the audience with awe, which seemed to be the general mood of the evening. As the band moved into the wild disarray of “Dear Mr. Supercomputer,” the night was well under way.
Stevens continued along on his fifteen-song journey through his set list, playing a great number of tracks from his Seven Swans album including, “He Woke Me Up Again,” and “The Transfiguration.”
The set list was heavily Seven Swans-oriented and leaned less toward Michigan, only entertaining the track “Detroit Lift Up Your Weary Head!”
All tracks were accompanied by a stellar visual display. During “The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts,” a song about the comic book hero Superman, the video displayed a flight through the skies by the man of steel himself.
The highlight came when Stevens introduced a new track entitled “Majesty Snowbird.” Stevens labeled the anthem as the theme song of the tour, calling himself the “Majesty Snowbird” and his band the “Magical Butterfly Brigade.”
Stevens stated that the melody to the song had been in his head for ten years, and it comes at no surprise. Unlike previous hits such as “Chicago” or “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” that create minimalist tones using either an array of brass and strings or just a guitar, “Majesty Snowbird” is a massive orchestral flood.
The song is a ten-minute storm of sounds that range from simple guitar and piano parts, to mystical string arrangements, to heavy rock drum beats and guitar solos.
“Snowbird” was a beautiful display of where Stevens is going with his music, and the new track created the height of euphoria for the evening that left the audience in a thrilled uproar.
Following this epic, the winged ensemble continued with a song written for NPR, a Flannery O’Connor-based track, and finished off their set with an Illinois trifecta that included “Casmir Pulaski Day,” “Jacksonville,” and “Chicago.”
Those who did not stay in the theater were forced onto the rainy streets of Upper Darby as Stevens finished his encore of “To Be Alone With You” and “The Dress Looks Nice On You.”