St. Vincent – Show Review 10/1/2009

Beautiful nights in a beautiful city call for a beautiful soundtrack and St. Louis got just what the proverbial doctor ordered when the amazing Annie Clark of St. Vincent and Champaign, Illinois band Elsinore performed at The Firebird on October 1st.

It’s easy to be apprehensive going into a show where you don’t know much about a band that’s performing, however, Elsinore made their case for everyone to relax and have a great time. The band claims to have been in the recording process of their forthcoming album Yes Yes Yes for 28 months, which in my humble opinion is a bit too long. Why, you ask? Because that was time wasted they could have been gaining more fans; but not to worry, they are certainly ready for more demanding audiences and shouldn’t have a tough time making fans out of…anyone.

Photo courtesy of Jason S.

Elsinore was no holds barred, churning out their own notable mix of dreamy rock and bouncy, crunchy pop. Of course, I feel like you can’t mention Elsinore and not mention their lead singer, Ryan Groff, and his hair. To be exceedingly cliché, everything about this quintet can not be easily judged by their collective covers. The group was as genuinely surprised at their reception, just as the audience was to giving great attention through their set. They put the crowd in a great move as they moved flawlessly from one song to the next, right up to when they performed a cover of The Postal Service’s “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”. While some may say that’s a lofty goal, they made sure to nail it to the wall and make sure everyone was thoroughly rocked.

As The Firebird continued to fill out, joy and giddiness seemed to be bubbling over the crowd; as Annie and her band mates took the stage, Ms. Clark taking a few fleeting moments to insert ear plugs, the consequential happiness spilled out of every pore. Anticipation then took over as she opened with “Marry Me” from her 2007 release of the same name. Sometimes it’s difficult to envision how a show will go based on the opening, surprises tend to unearth themselves in the strangest of fashions, but as Annie and her guitar rollicked across the stage it was easy to tell it would be a great night. After a wicked display of jazzy guitar and blues-like soul, Annie moved into newer material, including “The Strangers” and “Save Me From What I Want” just to name a few.

Photo courtesy of Louis K

As Annie exclaimed to the audience early on that she was “flummoxed by your enthusiasm” and was “very, genuinely happy” to be there, her jazz combo/watered-down orchestral pit of four exited the stage to give way and make room for solo Annie. As a soloist, vulnerability is inevitable, but Annie tore up her take on her cover of The Beatles’ “I Dig A Pony” and in the process bared her soul more than I’ve ever seen anyone do before; and by soul I don’t mean that spiritual and immortal thing, but the genre of music made highly popular in the 1950’s. The abrupt and spastic blues riffs filled the air as she perfected the cover; guitar and vocals wailed together in perfect unison, and just as she started the song, she seemed to be crooning toward the end.

The band joined her back on stage for “Now Now”, amidst the twinkiling and complicated guitar pattern she began to play before they arrived. She then moved to the eerie and moving “Marrow” from this years release, Actor and closing out the first round with another newer song “Just The Same But Brand New”.

Photo courtesy of J. Stoff

Of course, you can’t just leave your audience hanging, though they waited with baited breath for everything she did all night, and she came back to treat the audience with a solo version of “Paris is Burning”. One particular fan continually pleaded for her to “PLAY MARRY ME!”, “MARRY ME? PLAY IT!”, whereupon Clark, explained the old saying “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” and she complied most handsomely. “The Party” was next up in the encore and it quickly lulled the audience into a warm sense of the end to come. St. Vincent rounded out the night with “Your Lips are Red” and got the audience to get their fill of the awesome right before the lights came up. The start and stop anxiety of the whole set was culminated by the final song and the audience, though surely wanted more, left amongst the sounds of textured guitar, violin and woodwind-y atmospheric madness. Another thing the audience left with? Pure fulfillment. There was never a dull moment throughout the set and St. Vincent never failed to impress all night long, even after when they stuck around to speak with admiring fans.

All in all, one of the best shows in the past five years. If you missed this one, I feel very very sorry for you.

On to the next!

Setlist:
-Marry Me
-The Strangers
-Laughing With a Mouth Full of Blood
-Save Me From What I Want
-Actor Out of Work
-Dig a Pony (Beatles cover) (Solo)
-Black Rainbow
-Now Now
-Marrow
-Just The Same But Brand New

ENCORE:
-Paris is Burning (Solo)
-The Party
-Your Lips Are Red

Originally posted at Slamdunk Stalin on October 4, 2009.

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