Sufjan Stevens and co. bring Christmas cheer to the Rialto
Christmas came early Monday evening when inimitable indie hero Sufjan Stevens rolled into the Rialto Theatre to spread his holiday cheer with songs from his Christmas collection Silver and Gold, released in November.
As he has previously released five Christmas albums, which were collected in Songs for Christmas in 2006, Stevens’ borderline-neurotic obsession with the holiday is well-documented, and the musician’s lovable eccentricity was on full display at the show. Surrounded by inflatable unicorns and jingle bells, Stevens and his bandmates took the stage dressed in a variety of costumes including a Superman and chicken costume combo, and singer Rosie Thomas’ full snowman get-up.
The musicians weren’t alone in showing their holiday spirit. Much of the audience sported awful Christmas sweaters with original touches like antlers or demented Christmas hats. One gentleman wore a homemade unicorn helmet that Stevens loved so much, he invited its wearer onstage to spin the Wheel of Christmas.
The gigantic hand-painted wheel was adorned with the names of Christmas carols a la Wheel of Fortune, and on multiple occasions throughout the evening, Stevens stopped the band in running through his Christmas originals to choose someone from his band or the audience to spin the wheel. Stevens then led the crowd in singing whichever classic carol the wheel stopped on.
By the time Stevens was banging out “Sleigh Ride” with more enthusiasm than a 37-year-old man should, even the Scrooges in the audience couldn’t help but sing along. Other highlights included lovely versions of Stevens’ originals like “Sister Winter” and the only non-Christmas song of the main set, “For The Widows In Paradise, For the Fatherless In Ypsilanti.”
Stevens seemed entirely aware of the silliness of his endeavor, lending an infectious level of joy to tracks like “Ding-A-Ling-A-Ring-A-Ling” and the otherwise-somber “The Child With The Star On His Head,” the latter of which found Stevens and Thomas erupting into giggles halfway through.
The undeniable peak of the show, however, came with grand finale “Christmas Unicorn,” for which Stevens donned a papier-mâché horn and unleashed streamers, confetti and gargantuan red balloons upon the audience. Finally dropping the schtick, Stevens returned for an encore composed of four acoustic selections from his breakout album Illinois.
While Stevens didn’t quite show “Christmas Unicorn” levels of enthusiasm for this secular set, it was a humble gesture for an audience that had been waiting all night for the folky Stevens they loved.
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