Right after her work last year on The Polyphonic Spree’s The Fragile Army (QRO album review), Annie Clark (a.k.a. St. Vincent) made a major splash when she went solo with Marry Me (QRO album review). Now working on her follow-up, Clark was as charming and enchanting as always on Thursday, July 10th, when she played the well-suited Castle Clinton Monument.
Located at the southern tip of Manhattan as part of Battery Park, Castle Clinton (QRO venue review) is an unusual venue, even amongst the many places River-to-River Festival (QRO Festival Guide) holds free concerts over the summer. While not indoor, the area is surrounded by walls on all four sides (though the towers of Wall Street do loom over), and staffed by park rangers. Also, while still free, it’s a first-come, first-served seated venue (with some standing room at the back and along the house-left side). The stage is only a step off the ground, but covered, giving it almost the feel of classical music in the park, or watching a band in a gazebo.
While probably not right for every band, it did work for St. Vincent. Her high artistic nature, coupled with being backed by a violin and wind section, meant she was a good fit for the crowd, which ranged from young hipsters to old folks. After starting with a new instrumental, “Two Ships”, she & the band jumped into Marry Me’s opener, “Now Now”. The outdoor, almost orchestral nature of Castle Clinton did make almost all her pieces higher in tone, with the following “Human Racing” getting a finger-pluck twee, while “Jesus Saves, I Spend” and “All My Stars Aligned” were less encompassingly grand. The three-piece wind section was definitely played up, like on new numbers “I Was the Actor” and “Underneath the Bed”.
But Clark was still able to engage with the crowd, like right after her line in “Marry Me”, “Let’s do what Mary & Joseph do / Without the kid” – “Some people are just getting the joke for the first time…”. She followed up that with introductions of her band, including comparing her sunglasses-wearing bassist to Max Headroom (she forgot the name of the eighties character, saying “reminds me right now of that 80’s Coke commercial”), how her flutist can do a great impression of [flutist/frontman] Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull (“Fun fact: the first song I ever learned on guitar was [Tull’s] “Aqualung”), and the new music language writing devised by French horn player Michael Atkinson. She also announced that she’s a Libra…
Following that came Marry’s “Landmines”, then two more new pieces, “Coup” and “Trills”. “Coup” was a “slow jam” (as Clark warned), while “Trills”, probably the best of the new numbers, was a stop-start crash adventure, wherein Clark really broke out of the confines of the Castle. She really ended the night strong, first with “Trills”, then Marry’s audience-favorite “Paris Is Burning”, and, in the encore return, her live favorite (“Any song where I can shred a little” – QRO interview) “Your Lips Are Red” (wisely skipping Marry’s weakest track, “What Me Worry”).
Having recently moved from her native Dallas to Brooklyn, New Yorkers can hopefully look forward to more St. Vincent. And, with new material already in the bag, so can everybody else.