This concert review (finally) appears in this week's Wireless Bollinger.
The Bowery Ballroom is a haven for bands that fall somewhere above the cramped dives of obscurity, but haven’t quite acquired a massive sea of fans. The venue stands at an unassuming corner, with no jutting marquee to mark its location. Humility aside, it’s still one of the best places to see a concert, a mainstay in a city that overflows with options. On the last day of February – courtesy of a leap year – a crowd packed the venue to see St. Vincent, but first a taste of another Bowery asset: fresh-faced openers.
Basia Bulat’s acoustic guitar was deceiving. While it created a gentler pattern to her set compared to the jaggedness of an electric counterpart, her accompaniment boosted her songs past quiet folk. The addition of violin and ukele created a sound that was lush, but not overwhelming. Two female singers accompanied Bulat’s appealingly vocals, with each airy layer adding energy rather than weight. A cover of Daniel Johnston’s "True Love Will Find You in the End" supplemented Bulat’s original material, but as with the rest of the set, she made it her own.
MP3: Basia Bulat - In The Night
MySpace: Basia Bulat
Official Site: Basia Bulat
On a night that centered on a strong female lead, Foreign Born was somewhat out of place. The Los Angeles quartet strives for guitar anthems, but didn’t quite capture the crowd’s affection. As one audience member put it bluntly after the set, “They all sounded the same.” The band can’t really be blamed for a template that’s used by virtually all of indie rock. But even inviting members of St. Vincent onstage during the finale didn’t dramatically improve things, quite possibly because the key ingredient, Annie Clark, was absent.
MP3: Foreign Born - Union Hall
Blog: Foreign Born
MySpace: Foreign Born
When Clark finally did come onstage, the spotlight found a permanent target. She was joined onstage by a drummer and two multi-instrumentalists, who contributed to a diverse sound. However, it’s no mistake that the band has a singular name, as Clark’s presence dominated. She wielded a guitar with surprising force, turning Marry Me’s cryptic love songs into wrecking balls. It wasn’t quite shredding, but it was close.
Clark’s vocals represented a unique solution to a common problem. It wasn’t possible to replicate every nuance of the album – backup vocal was an obvious element that was prerecorded. But to compensate, she alternated between two microphones, a normal one and a retro-looking one that distorted her vocals, creating the perfect effect for some of her more sinister lyrical sentiments.
As far as banter, Clark was charmingly off-kilter. She spoke with complete sincerity about their tour van, which “ran on dreams,” and later described witnessing taxidermy in action. The most interesting specimen was of a pony, she said, which lead to her solo cover of the Beatles’ "Dig a Pony." Even without her band mates, she offered both gorgeous singing and jaw-dropping guitar-work.
Ultimately, it was the effortless blend of sweet melodies and authoritative rocking out that made the performance so impressive. There are many artists who are good at one or the other, but St. Vincent brings together the best of both worlds. Marry Me is already an impressive work in studio form, but when played live, the songs truly shine.
Here's St. Vincent live in the band's native Texas. The set was recorded at Fort Worth on October 19th, 2007. Enjoy!
2. Human Racing
3. Marry Me
4. Bang Bang
5. Paris Is Burning
6. (Tech Issues)
7. Dig A Pony (Beatles Cover)
8. (Tech Issues)
9. Jesus Saves, I Spend
10. What, Me Worry
11. I've Been Out Walking (Jackson Browne Cover)
12. Your Lips Are Red
13. Now, Now
Entire Set: Mediafire
MySpace: St. Vincent
Official Site: St. Vincent