Smile Politely

All things go: Life changes at Sufjan Stevens

the line

It started with a line. A long line.

That line grew into a behemoth salamander that stretched back to Merry Ann’s diner. Everyone started to get a little antsy and entertained themselves with a variety of calisthenics and I Spy games. It was practically a formal occasion for Champaign-Urbana as we spied ties, frilly dresses and shiny shoes. Everyone was done up in their Sunday best for the night. As the line inched forward, we knew it was well worth the wait.

 The Highdive slowly filled with fans until every crevice was covered. With no delay, Cryptacize took the stage. I was expecting a hip hop artist and instead was blessed with an angelic-voiced lass named Nedelle Torrisi with her three dapper cronies. Torrisi voice is full and sad, not unlike Claudia Gonson of The Magnetic Fields. Their poppy ’50s dance music was a well chosen opener for Stevens.




A crew prepared the stage for Stevens’ numerous instruments and piles of sheet music. What came next met every expectation as a life-changing show, from his new material to old favorites and everyone who was there to share it.

I’ve never seen a crowd so attentive. No one was outside. No one was in the bathroom. Everyone stared longingly at the man in the middle of the stage, the horn section, Torrisi singing in the corner. The crowd created a collective hum to songs like “Jacksonville”, “The Upper Peninsula” and “Chicago”.


War veterans fresh from Iraq, an elderly couple who knew every word, bartenders, professors, students, engineers, artists and  the like all came together and remembered that each of us has a story. Those stories took an abrupt pause during a pop encore titled “There’s Too Much Love”. We wanted a show, and Stevens exceeded the goal.

Do yourself a favor and check out Justine’s photos from the show.

And this video, of course:

Sufjan Stevens @ the Highdive from Justine B. on Vimeo.

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