Every person experiences pain, but life is about accepting and being able to release that pain.

Sufjan Stevens is an artist who has never been shy about his pain. From anger, guilt, to memories of absence, Sufjan has poured out his heart into beautiful melodies. After a hiatus from 2010’s The Age of Adz, Sufjan returned with his new critically acclaimed album Carrie & Lowell. Reflecting on his relationship with his late mother, Carrie, who suffered from addiction and mental illness, and step-father Lowell; this album proves to be one of his most personal and emotionally-reflective to date.

Sufjan Stevens, who normally has elaborated costumes, choreography, and lighting elements to his performances, kept it fittingly toned down. Backed by eight pane-like screens, homemade video of childhood memories and imagery of oceans and sunsets exquisitely graced the stage. Sufjan and the crowd alike remained virtually silent in between songs, with the crowd only making noise to provide thunderous applause. Sufjan’s voice, which was grieving as he played through Carrie & Lowell, provided constant chills as we all sat reflecting on our own lives, communicating through his tender vocals.

By the end of the night, Sufjan thanked the crowd for being with him on the opening the night of his tour, before apologizing that the night was “a downer.” Sufjan said he would “end the night on a high note… but not really” before ending his set with ‘Chicago.’ Downer or not, the night was a beautiful ensemble of music that left nearly everyone in tears… but we were okay with that.

Photos by Erika Reinsel