In the spring of 2004, Sufjan Stevens was a folk singer with a set full of God-tinged ballads. He had just released the earthily delicate Seven Swans, his fourth studio album, and was preparing to release Illinoise, the second in what was supposed to be a complete set of albums about all 50 American states. He wasn't a star, but he was about to get as close to stardom as a skinny, Bible-referencing, glass-voiced 20-something could.
He played at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on April 22, a Christian school that he'd spent time visiting for shows as a teenager. The set made its way onto YouTube this morning in perfect high-quality audio, and you can check it out in full at the top of the page. He draws from Seven Swans, playing stark versions of "Size Too Small," "For the Widows In Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti," "He Woke Me Up Again," "Seven Swans" itself, and "Borderline," a sombre Madonna homage that made its way onto the B-Side of "That Dress Looks Nice on You." There's a smattering of songs from Michigan and A Sun Came and an acoustic version of "Chicago" from the then-unreleased Illinoise, and a banjo-led cover of The Innocence Mission's "The Lakes of Canada." It's all stirring and pretty, and you will likely find yourself crying halfway through.
[h/t god_is_ender on Reddit]
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