February 13: St. Vincent
St. Vincent's live performances get better each time. Last night was the third time I had seen her in person (though, as my friend Jared corrected, we only caught the last two songs during the first performance, so that doesn't completely count). It was my second full show. The second where she headlined. And it was easily the most impressive yet. A packed to capacity Bluebird of excited, true fans fulfilled my personal need for Annie Clark's talents to be appreciated with gusto. And the set was stellar. Incredible. Untoppable, at least until next time, I'm sure. Opening the show was Wildbirds and Peacedrums from Sweden. A duo utilizing only drums (one traditional kit and one steel) and brilliant, hauntingly beautiful vocals. I only caught the last three songs of their set, so under the criteria hammered out by my buddy Jared and I above, I didn't really SEE them, see them, but regardless, they were a compelling and amazing act. Running the steel drum through an effects system created a unique and full sound, despite the lack of broad instrumentation or a large band. They were able to present the bombastic, jumping sound seen on the recent Dirty Projectors album, but with only a fraction of the staff. Truly, a great start to an impeccable show.
Annie came out with the band: drums, woodwinds, guitar and violin, and proceeded to play highlights from 2009's Actor to near-album perfection. The hits, or at least the favorites, were rearranged a bit, making them new, shiny, and delightful to listen to. My friend Jason even remarked, "You know that you're seeing a good band when every song they play is your favorite. There's not a single song on either album that I don't like." Annie Clark has that level of virtuosity. She has compiled two albums worth of incredible songs without a single throwaway track. And she's only becoming greater to see live. In two more albums she may actually melt the hearts and faces of entire amphitheaters of people with just a bat on an eyelash and a powerful guitar riff.
The set largely avoided songs from Marry Me, though she played, solo, "Paris is Burning" and did a beautiful, mind-bogglingly awesome cover of Nico's "These Days". There were shouts from the crowd for her cover of "Dig A Pony" as seen in the Black Cab Sessions that went unanswered and other fans beckoning her to play "Marry Me" and although neither made the final list, I don't think a single person at the show could've been disappointed. A great rock show is one of the most personal and interpersonal moments in my life. You are both connected to the music, to your listening experience, to the band, and to everyone around you. And were there not a drunken lout standing behind my friends and I, the show would've been untouchable in the annals of greatest live shows ever.
Since I associate St. Vincent so closely with my musical awakening, and since I picked up Annie's first album on a whim, having read nothing, I tend to hold these shows even more near and dear. Every St. Vincent show is like an affirmation both of my love of music and the great direction music can go when in the hands of someone truly talented. Her music is about a lot of the same topics all music is, love, confusion, disillusion, transition, fear, etc., etc., but each song is also utterly and completely unique. That is what marks a great gift. Even hearing the same songs again live, after having spun the album hundreds of time, you can still be surprised and sonically satiated. Maybe I'm too "into" St. Vincent to see her completely critically, but that's how I like it. I'd rather be a rabid, mouth-foaming fan for any band, than consider every error or misstep as representative of the whole. And it was great to see a full venue of people who seemed to feel more or less the same way. Annie Clark continues to grow as a performer, and we continue to grow as her audience, and the net result is that shows get better. I can't wait until she comes back to Denver again. If I'm lucky I'll get a chance to thank her for everything.
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