On the second-to-last day of February, Brooklyn was blessed with a miraculous performance by St. Vincent on the second-to-last day of her tour.Annie Clark made a big splash in 2007, both as part of The Polyphonic Spree’s The Fragile Army (QRO review) and on her own as St. Vincent, with her debut solo LP, Marry Me (QRO review). And her star’s only been shining brighter since then. Finishing up a short ‘big city’ coast-to-coast tour in New York, she delivered a stupendous concert at the Music Hall in Williamsburg (QRO venue review) on February 28th.
Clark opened the night as she opened Marry Me, with the high-and-pretty, but also fun-and-ironic, “Now Now” and “Jesus Saves, I Spend”. The two powerful but poppy pieces really set the stage for a night that managed to be both emotional and winning. “All My Stars Aligned” kept in that same vein, maybe not at quite so high a level, but it led into Clark’s secret stage weapon: banter with the crowd. She managed to both be the flighty and a joke on that very flightiness, saying in sweet deadpan such oddly hilarious lines as, “The theme for tonight is that we’re all giants in the psychedelic forest.” From other performers, such a thing would come off as weird and indulgent, or over-the-top in its mockery, but Clark managed to hit just the right tone.
She even employed this technique when introducing her own material, like “Landmines”, “If you like ‘sensitive love songs’, you are in for a treat.” Or her backing band, “There are other skeletal systems, and heartbeats, and gastro-intestinal tracks…” (someone in the crowd finally supplied her with the word ‘people’). And that was as they were leaving to let her play a cover song on her own. But before she did that, Clark gave this great description of their tour with L.A.’s Foreign Born (QRO photos):
I’m so happy to be home. But what makes this so fun and awesome is that I’m on the two-week ‘Peace Tour’ with Foreign Born, where we ride around in 1984 Pink Camaros (‘cause it gets better gas mileage). We caravan, each of us gets our own car. We started in L.A. We impressed a lot of people there – with our cars. We’d pull up at gas stations and open the doors, and we’d all synch up Huey Lewis & The News from our car stereos (I have a kickerbox in the back of mine). … We all wear shades, and when anyone walks by, we go like this, [dips pantomime shades]
What’s more, St. Vincent kept it rolling all night long, balanced in a way better than the somewhat top-heavy Marry Me. The band returned for the record’s full-bodied title track, which was followed by a grand, stop-start, melodramatic, epic new song, heavy on the violins. And Clark saved some of the best for last, with the absolutely amazing crowd favorite “Paris Is Burning”, followed by Clark’s own favorite “chance to shred a little” live, “Your Lips Are Red”. Everyone and more returned from the encore break, Clark noting how serendipitous it was that she found friends backstage, with instruments already in hand, for an encore return that included a version of “What Me Worry” far superior to that on Marry Me.
In a way, Clark’s winning, balanced persona perfectly matches her music: serious enough to have power, without ever getting so serious as to lose the fun. The crowd was a healthy mix of young and old, hipster and laid-back; when she jokingly thanked not just Brooklyn, but all the parts of Brooklyn, from Bed-Stuy to Ditmus Park to ‘The G.P.’ (Greenpoint), even the stone-faced security folk had to laugh. St. Vincent has not just the music, but the personality, to carry to all parts of Brooklyn, New York, America, and beyond.