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Sufjan Stevens Cleans Up Nice

“It’s not every day that I play in a suit and a tie, so I feel special,” Sufjan Stevens said in-between songs at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage Monday night. A twenty-plus person band, comprised mostly of members of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, flanked the Midwestern wunderkind as he helped celebrate the tenth anniversary of the venue’s free daily concerts, so the feeling was well-deserved. Stevens looked dapper in his suit, sporting a beard that hid his boyish features, but the sense that the grown-ups were away and the kids had taken over for the night was inescapable.

The singer blitzed through an hour-long set of his fragile chamber pop, nervously clapping between songs, visibly in awe of the collaborators who lent his arrangements such heft. “Chicago” got the packed house on the edge of their seats (literally — everyone was sitting, as this was more a recital than a concert), but it was the softer songs that sparkled. When Stevens cooed “The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us!,” the strings and horns wept along, and show-closer “Majesty Snowbird” highlighted the virtue of the arrangement by offering a study in contrast, with moments of Stevens’ voice accompanied only by piano rubbing gloriously against blasts of orchestral bombast. JEFFREY PARKER / PHOTOS BY JOEL DIDRIKSEN

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We asked: Sufjan says he’s going to do an album for each state. He’s already done Michigan and Illinois, what state should he do next? COMMENT