Dallas native Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent)
“It wasn’t so much the vocals as the polyphonic wailing…”
– William, on why he left the St. Vincent show early
A mere two days before St. Vincent’s absolutely incredible album Marry Me dropped, and I was shocked by the turn-out to see Scout Niblett and St. Vincent at Walter’s on Sunday night – in more ways than one.
While Scout Niblett has not made much of a splash here in the states, her music is supposedly doing a little better back in her native England. Emma Louise Niblett, who performs under the name “Scout,” is a singer-songwriter who plays either the drums or the guitar. Not to knock Niblett, but a little enthusiasm goes a long way on stage. Her sound is hard to peg – like Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick crossed with Cat Power on a lot of downers.
The only song that anyone seemed to like was “Dinosaur Egg,” and most were confused by “Pom-Poms” during which she stopped playing guitar completely, shuffled to the back of the stage, appeared to pop a handful of pills, and sat down to play drums. All in all, it was a pretty forgettable performance and I am glad I didn’t spend my money on her CD.
Niblett’s set lasted a long 45 minutes, but she cleared out quickly as the excitement grew before St. Vincent took the stage.
The past few years have been pretty good for St. Vincent. At 24, Annie Clark (as she is known off-stage) has toured with the likes of Sufjan Stevens and the Polyphonic Spree, playing guitar for both, and has opened for The Arcade Fire, John Vanderslice, and Xiu Xiu, among others. Now, starting off on her first tour as a headliner, St. Vincent is finally earning the praise that she so deserves.
I was a bit disappointed to see that she only sang and played guitar and bass during her live show – I say “only” because her credits on Marry Me are listed as “vocals, guitar, bass, piano, organ, moog [a type of synth whose name rhymes with “vogue”], synthesizer, clavietta, xylophone, vibraphone, dulcimer, drum programmer, triangle, [and] percussion.” Simply put, Annie Clark rocks.
So why oh why then was there such a small crowd? Granted, it was a Sunday night, but I really expected her to draw an audience much larger than the one of roughly sixty or so that was in attendance. The fact that no less than one fifth of the crowd was made up of members of either Episcopal High School’s class of ’06 or class of ’07 (woo!) was extremely amusing and just goes to show – you wanna be one of the cool kids? Listen to St. Vincent… now take a hit of this… come on, man, everybody’s doing it.
The fact that this is St. Vincent’s first time as a headliner would certainly be surprising to anyone who was at her Houston show… she had incredible stage presence and took time to talk with the crowd between songs, although she did have to be reminded to thank Scout Niblett for opening… a little bit unprofessional, but I definitely don’t blame her. The only thing she seemed actually nervous about was her album artwork:
“My CD is on sale over there,” she said during a break, “it’s the one with my face on it, so you can’t miss it. If you buy it, then, after the show, I’ll actually personally deface it for you… throw on some prison tattoos, or maybe like an eye-patch. ‘Cus that’s just the kind of artist I am…”
“I thought we’d do something right now,” she said at one point between songs, “I’m not sure if you know, but the Flaming Lips always do all these amazing things in concert, so I wanted to do something like that and hand out cough syrup to you at the door. So, go see that man back there, get yourself some, and then we’ll take things down to about 20 BPM and just let you ride that wave…” The SuperUnison rep at the ticket counter appeared flustered as the crowd turned to see if her offer was legit, and nervously laughed it off when she continued, “… No, not really.”
Joined on-stage by violinist Daniel Hart, drummer Brian Teasley, and a bassist/guitarist/clavietta player whose name I didn’t catch (was it Mark?), St. Vincent played through Marry Me in its entirety (the album is only 45 minutes long) – ending the show with a live version of “Paris Is Burning” that was nothing short of amazing.
Also included in the set was a song that has not yet been released, titled “Bang, Bang.”
“We’ve played a lot of love songs up here tonight,” she said to hoots from the crowd, “but it’s time we changed things up. This is a song about murder.”
Played without any back up, “Bang, Bang” was a hit with the crowd, and I would not be surprised if it is released later in the year as a single/B-side. In fact, I would be thrilled.
After the show, Annie Clark was more than happy to sign CDs, and was especially excited to see that people were buying Marry Me on vinyl.
And while I settled for an autograph, Clark was true to her word and gave my friend Susie’s CD cover an eye-patch. Because she’s just that kind of artist.
Read what The New York Times has to say about Marry Me here.
Buy St. Vincent’s Marry Me here.