There’s a scene in Family Guy, that cultural behemoth of our times, where Peter Griffin addresses the camera directly in a TV segment he’s hosting called What Really Grinds My Gears. On this occasion, the issue is Lindsay Lohan’s sexualised body: “You’re out there jumping around, and I’m just sitting here with my beer. So, what am I supposed to do? What do you want? Are we gonna go out?” Peter’s frustration isn’t caused by what’s being projected out to him; it’s working out what he’s supposed to do with something he can’t touch or affect in any way.
Watching Sufjan Stevens perform Carrie & Lowell in its entirety at Bristol’s Colston Hall last month, I found myself wondering what we’re supposed to do with the album and, by extension, the performance. It’s a wonderful record, and it’s obviously been hugely therapeutic for Stevens, but what about the audience? What are we getting out of this?