Tuesday, February 26, 2008

St. Vincent--Schubas, Chicago, Illinois

St. Vincent (the stage name of Annie Clark) was at Schubas this past Friday for a doubleheader. I ventured over there for the first show. Her 2007 debut Marry Me is a collection of artful pop-weirdness and was one of my favorite albums of last year (as evidenced by NQL's review at the time) so I was pretty curious to see it all unfold live.

Folk/rock band Foreign Born from California opened up the show. They were pretty good, seemed like nice guys, and played for about the length of time it takes me to drink 1.5 Budweisers. Their myspage lists coffee and boxing as one of their many influences, which means I know what will be playing in my stereo next time it's 3am and I have been playing Mike Tyson's Punchout! for the last 9 hours desperately trying to beat the champ with that squirrel-of-a-man Little Mac fellow while jacked up on caffeine. Thanks, guys! At one point the lead singer mentioned something about the Chicago cold and some guy yelled out, "It wasn't cold today!" It really wasn't that bad, I think the weather hovered around the 30s all day. But that's what we've been reduced to here in Chicago to try and convince ourselves we don't mind the winter. Anytime someone from California, or worse, Florida, complains about the cold we quickly puff out our chest, call them wimps, and then we all feel better. It's what we do.

St. Vincent sauntered onto the stage with three dudes. Don’t let that crazy cat lady-esqe cover of Marry Me fool you: this Clark gal is cute as hell. They opened up with first track from the album, “Now Now”, and really turned the end into a loud and beautiful mess. They might as well have left the stage when they finished; it felt like a closer. They moved on to a few other songs from the album (I don't remember the names; they mostly came from the first half of the record) with each leaving me mesmerized by Clark’s guitar prowess. Accompanying her was a guy on violin, another on drums, and a multi-instrumentalist. And they have quite the boisterous stage presence which shouldn’t be too surprising: She has been part of the touring band for such acts as Sufjan Stevens, the Polyphonic Spree, and Ike Turner…all of whom are/were no slouches when it comes to the art of the theatrical stage show.

Clark told the crowd this is the 17th time they have played Schubas which I find to be amazing. Apparently this is their first time headlining, though. They’re in the midst of a small two-week tour and she mentioned she was thrilled to be in Chicago because they picked only the cities that they really wanted to play: San Francisco, Portland, Chicago, Columbus, Pittsburgh, DC, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Cambridge, and New York. If you don’t see your city on this list you might want to take a look in the mirror and figure out ways you and your fellow denizens can improve. The fact that Pittsburgh made it over your city should tell you it’s time to act now. Just ask Sienna Miller.

Right before they played the title track some guy in the crowd yelled out “Marry me, Annie!” which was immediately followed up by a girl yelling “Babysit me, Annie!” Annie acknowledged the "Arrested Development" fan in the crowd and then talked about everyone’s favorite extinct show for a bit. I had no idea the album title was culled from an "Arrested Development" reference…which I confirmed from this old Pitchfork article. This just makes me like her more! But I’m confused, is the title track also a reference to this line? The lyrics don’t exactly scream Maeby Funke.

This show was much better than I had expected. Not that I was prepared to be bored but I had no idea I would leave as impressed as I did. From where I was standing I couldn’t really see the drummer but he sounded great as did the rest of the band. It was loud when it should have been loud and they dialed it down when appropriate. She worked three different microphones that ranged her vocals from high to low. The stage show was as creative as a confined space like Schubas will allow with back drop tapestries, trees, and bells. And lastly, she was fantastic. She has a great voice, she’s funny (as evidenced when she told the crowd they were about to play a new song and a few people clapped and without missing a beat she said "Oh, you haven't heard it yet."), and she writes good songs about love and dysfunction that only the Bluth family could really appreciate. With only her debut album out (though they did play a few songs not on Marry Me) they played for just over an hour and when I left I overheard a few people raving about how much they liked the show. They weren’t alone.


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