Reload Your Mind

How Sufjan Stevens uses live music to redefine his best work

Be the Sharing Type



Carrie and Lowell Live is a fresh take on a musical masterpiece


Brett Luft

By Brett Luft


Think of the greatest music performer you’ve ever witnessed. One might think of Garth Brooks, someone else might think of Linkin Park, and another could drop a name such as Ariana Grande or Kanye West.

But how many people can honestly say they thought of Sufjan Stevens?

I never really thought of Stevens as a revolutionary performer. I’ve always known he was a stellar musician, as his ability to adapt to any instrument is only really surpassed by Beck, but my thoughts of Sufjan Stevens as a live performer changed the moment I turned on Carrie and Lowell Live.

Carrie and Lowell Live is best described as a audio-visual journey through the many emotions of Stevens’ 2015 release, Carrie and Lowell an album dedicated to Stevens’ late mother and stepfather.

My initial expectation going into Carrie and Lowell Live — which is currently available to stream for free on YouTube — was what one might expect going into any concert: a live rendition of studio tracks with little to no re-imagining of any of the tracks.

Carrie and Lowell Live finally captures the visual emotions of Sufjan Stevens’ 2015 release. Photo courtesy Asthmatic Kitty Records

What I received instead was a masterclass in music performance, as Stevens not only experiments with the sounds of Carrie and Lowell, but also the bonus tracked included in the live edition.

From the electronic inspiration of “Fourth of July” to the 12-minute “Blue Bucket” outro, every note of Carrie and Lowell Live feels fresh. Bonus tracks from previous albums, such as “Redford” and “Vesuvius,” have taken new shape in Stevens’ live performance.

Even without the fresh take on moments from the album, Stevens’ performance is enough to be mesmerized by Carrie and Lowell Live. While the passion was prominent on the original studio release, hearing him come to terms with the rollercoaster ride of his own life in a raw and uncut fashion is truly moving.

There are moments on Carrie and Lowell Live that feel like Stevens is in true pain, speaking about his realization that we are all going to die or how his mother abandoned him early into his life.

If you’ve got 90 minutes to kill, check out Stevens’ Carrie and Lowell Live today on Asthmatic Kitty’s YouTube and Vimeo channels, or if you’re looking for some good weekly jams, check out Stevens’ work on Google Play, Apple Music, and Spotify today.