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Life is a Highway for Sufjan Stevens

Indie rock heartthrob Sufjan Stevensplayed to a full house Thursday night (Nov. 1) at the Brooklyn Academyof Music as part of the 25th Next Wave Festival. The songwriter debutedthe musical and cinematic piece “The BQE,” which he described as a”bizarre and beautiful ode to one of the world’s ugliest expressways.”Stevens performed with a full orchestra as the film he directed airedabove him — shots of neighborhood stoops, bustling traffic andbillboards off the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway matched the instrumentalswells of the symphony. A troupe of day-glo hula hoopers even came outduring the performance to accompany the epic score.

Followingan intermission, Stevens performed a series of his familiar hits,including “Jacksonville” and “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.,” while projectionsof psychedelic animation, fireworks and (of course) cheerleaders airedbehind his band. Before closing the set with “Chicago,” the Midwestnative donned a pair of paper wings and kicked back his chair as hefuriously pounded on the piano. The show brought the audience membersto their feet and revealed that life was more than just a highway –with his set of touching folk vignettes, Stevens led the crowd on ajourney through land, air and even hula hoops.

We asked: Which New York landmark would inspire you to write a symphony?