Sufjan Stevens brings Christmas and more to Austin
Show includes kazoos, singalong and confetti.
Decked out in a reindeer-antlered hat dangling with tinsel, Sufjan Stevens led over a thousand people in a Christmas singalong that took turns being ironic and touching.
Behind the band was a very large, multi-colored wheel, painted with the names of Christmas songs. Stevens taught the crowd to shout “The wheel ... of ... Christmas!” when it was time to spin for a new carol to be chosen.
Stevens’ new release “Silver & Gold” is his second box set of Christmas music in recent years — the man is proliffc — ffve new discs of eclectically arranged holiday classics, alongside originals that reflect on Stevens’ more conflicted feelings about the season.
At Emo’s on Saturday, Stevens and his band of merry-makers were in ffne form. “Christmess Hymnals” were passed out to illuminate the verses no one remembers. Someone with a uni-
corn head came onstage to spin the wheel, then the crowd, many dressed in Santa hats, sang earnest renditions of carols such as “O Holy Night.”
“That’s more of a Lenten hymn,” Stevens quipped at one point. “But who’s keeping track here?”
Some carols were played for laughs. Kazoos sang out “Auld Lang Syne,” and opener Sheila Saputo (singer Rosie Thomas’ alter ego) sang out ridiculously high pitched backing vocals.
In the quieter solo moments, the crowd’s lesser devotees couldn’t help themselves from jawing loudly, popping the proverbial Balloon of Togetherness. But by the end of the night this seemed to subside, as the crowd was won over by its own singing.
The evening’s irony came to a climactic ffnale with “Christmas Unicorn,” which rails mercilessly against the commercialization of Christmas. Confetti, big red balloons and pink blow-up unicorns bounced on top of the crowd.
Then Stevens returned for an encore and put the Christmas portion to bed. As he sang out the opening verses of “Concerning The UFO Sighting...” the crowd began spontaneously singing along, fflling the room with a single, sincere voice.
When Stevens sang his most famous songs, “Chicago” and “Casimir Pulaski Day,” it felt at ffrst like pandering — until I realized what it really was: songs everybody could sing.
“The voice is a sacred instrument,” Stevens said, letting his guard down. Whether your singing was drunken or devout, “Thanks for raising your voices in unison.”
In that moment, it seemed he was won over, too.
Sufjan Stevens brought music from his new holiday collection “Silver and Gold” to Emo’s on Saturday.