Took this iPhone photo while Moses Sumney was opening for Sufjan Stevens at the Altria last Wednesday. It is and is not representative of what that experience was like.
Representative because you can see how alone he is, lighting up this vast, dark space with just a guitar, some looping equipment and his tremendous vocal abilities. The Altria is a big theater. It feels like a giant, creepy cave when the lights are low and the music is quiet, and it happens to be the perfect environment for Sumney’s style, I think. He makes excellent use of silence and space, pairing sparseness with melodies that start off delicate but grow bigger and stronger with each layer. (Speaking of pairings, what a perfect way to warm up for Sufjan. There’s a booking agent somewhere out there who deserves a high five.)
Not representative because dude barely even needed his guitar. It was gorgeous and crisp and jazzy when he used it, but he left it on its stand for whole songs, looping his voice to make chords, building beats with looped claps and vocal percussion. There’s something so heroic about that –commanding a cavernous 3,500-person theater when YOU are the instrument. You have to be pretty damn brave to say “Hey world, this is me” so purely. But he won us over easily, partly because of his disarming personality, but mostly because his voice is totally stunning. I’d call it “angelic,” but that’s just one mode he can employ — his phenomenal control lets him tinker with breathiness and volume levels and fine tune the shapes of words to make whatever sounds he wants to make. One of those rare times when subtlety is overwhelming.
A highlight for me was seeing “Seeds,” a tune that hit the interweb just a few days before the Altria show. Take a listen below — it’ll be released via 7-inch this summer.