St. Vincent LIVE!

I've harped on the poor acoustics at the Fillmore readily in this column, and despite the Decemberists success there last week, I stand by it. The rub is this: the sound at the Bluebird is worse. It's tinnier than the Fillmore, bartering intimacy, insofar as I would have been able to sign "I love you" to Annie Clark from anywhere in the 'bird, (in the proper light) against a shallower "can-like" sound. Being close to the band, even if they sound drowned in the venue, is a trade that only ends beneficially in some case. Seeing Seal live, as a random non-autobiographical example, would benefit from distance and better sound.

St. Vincent needed something a little more in between. When I first saw Annie, she was opening for Stars at the Ogden back in '07. The Ogden is more her size and style. It's an acoustically advanced venue that can make any band sound good and a great band (see: Mogwai, Rilo Kiley, Ted Leo + The Pharmacists) sound amazing. This is, of course, neither here nor there. The show was at the 'bird, and at the 'bird I was satisfied.

Annie opened with a slightly re-visioned version of "Marry Me" and then flew into the new album. The clattering, chaotic, but ethereal/orchestral style so dominant on Actor blasted through the speakers at left and right. It is amazing to watch Annie Clark work. A two-head mic stand, playing guitar, singing and kneeling down to adjust the pedals throughout each and every song. And remarkably there is never a missed change, strained moment or diffused bout of sonic energy. Clark wears her guitar high above the waist, rather than the conventional belt-high set up, liking because of all the kneeling to the pedals. But her style lead my friend John to coin the phrase, "She plays guitar like a gargoyle." He meant this as a compliment, it the way that you thin arms and fingers joint to finger the fretboard. And frankly, if she sings like an angel, playing like a gargoyle is just fine.

From there, the show was short; a resultant of curfews, Tuesday nights, and smaller bands at smaller venues. I was disappointed at how few people seemed invested in the show. This was more of a casual music-goer show. No one danced, and the crowd response to Annie's attempts at banter was generally weak. As a result, and powered forth by a couple of beers, I "Woo!"ed so loud as Annie announced she'd be playing "Laughing with a Mouth Of Blood" that the silent crowd turned to gawk. So, I blurted then, "What!? It's my favorite song on the album! It's why I'm here!"

That embarrassment aside, this was another excellent show. St. Vincent as Annie Clark's pseudonym is a speedily-altering artistic entity. As a band, St. Vincent is employing incredible musicians on brass/woodwinds, strings, and keys. And the manner in which as a unit they can bring the eclectic and noise-laden symphonics alive before an audience is stunning. In a better venue with a livelier crowd this show nears perfection. Set list follows:

  1. Marry Me
  2. Strangers
  3. Save Me From What I Want
  4. Now, Now
  5. Actor Out Of Work (Annie announces this song as next in the set... to hear only crickets. Criminal! She said, and I paraphrase, "I guess you haven't heard of this one," in a resigned mew.)
  6. Paris Is Burning
  7. The Bed
  8. Laughing with a Mouth of Blood
  9. Black Rainbow
  10. Marrow
  11. Just the Same but Brand New
  12. The Party (Encore)
  13. Your Lips Are Red (Encore) (My friend John and I called this one... at the start of the encore... not perfect, but damn close.)

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