Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld @ The CedarApr 18, 2014
Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld came to the Cedar on April 17th, 2014 for a night of stunningly beautiful music.
I stood outside the Cedar Cultural Center for an hour, long before anyone else came, because of one reason. I wanted to see Colin Stetson play the bass saxophone.
7:30 on Thursday hosted two instrumental soloists, Colin Stetson on several saxophones, and Sarah Neufeld on violin. Both had toured with Arcade Fire somewhat extensively (Neufeld more than others), but what this concert had that others don't is the ability of doing a lot with a little.
Most of the time, there was only one person on the stage, and yet the sounds that came from their instruments were astonishingly piercing and strangely hypnotic. I looked around at the people seated to the right and left of me, and I could see a whole range of interpretation of the music. I saw a guy with his eyes closed next to me, not moving, almost meditative. A man with his nine-year-old son to my left simply tapped his foot occasionally and nodded along. We all took away something from that night.
Sarah came on first, holding her violin. A microphone had been placed out on a stand for her, which she talked and sang into, but there was another microphone lying on the ground. I wondered what it was for, until in her second piece, she began stomping. Maybe it was the stage, maybe it was her shoes, but it sounded like a snare and bass drum being played at the same time. Her stomping rattled the stage and the audience. It added a punch to her violin playing, which was fast, arpeggiated chords moving up and down her strings. This speed created the atmosphere for the night, painting landscapes with notes that could only be from a violin.
She played around 7 songs, some, if not most, from her solo debut, "Hero Brother." She did have a duet with Colin Stetson as her second to last song, which was exciting to hear. The sax and violin blend surprisingly naturally together.
She finished with a piece dedicated to a relative named Douglas, which was a phenomenal finisher and more than a perfect lead-in to Colin Stetson.
Stetson can do a lot with a little, and that is why is music is so electrifying. Through several saxophones, Stetson manages to keep the whole audience quiet and completely in the zone. Taking five-minute songs and stretching them to twelve, his stage presence was demanding with his gargantuan instrument. Even when he played his little alto, he filled the space with an immense sound, that was surprising to hear from just one instrument.
He played seven songs, spreading throughout his most recent albums "New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges" and "New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light." Stetson hummed, screamed, and tapped his way into our minds with his daring soundscapes.
He also had a duet with Sarah again, bringing her out to play another song, before ending with "In Love and In Justice," a drone filled with hummed harmonies, ending in a peaceful, zen crescendo.
Listening to Colin Stetson is not only a privilege, it's an experience. Sometimes just stripping down your definition of music is beautiful and perfect.