Thursday, February 11, 2010

Marry Me, Annie

February 9th, El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles – St. Vincent, Wildbirds & Peacedrums

I was pretty damn ecstatic when I heard St. Vincent was going to be playing in LA about 3 weeks ago. I have only been a fan for about 2 or 3 months, but my appreciation for her musical talent and willingness to experiment continued to grow with each new listen to Marry Me. Why I haven't picked up Actor yet I have no idea. But it won't be much longer before I own that album too. Anyway, on to the show!

I looked up the opening act, Wildbirds & Peacedrums, the night before to familiarize myself a bit with what they sounded like, maybe learn a song or two. Watching them play live, I can't say I was completely won over. The main instruments used in all of their songs are just drums and vocals. And while this may not be a problem for some people I found myself wanting perhaps a little bit of guitar here and there, perhaps some keyboard synth, or even various wind instruments to add another layer of depth to their overall sound. I will say the vocalist is pretty impressive with her almost schizophrenic type singing at times, but also being very soulful in her approach as well. She is pretty effective at holding your attention as she bounced back and forth on stage. Not bad on the eyes either. She would also play a percussion instrument that I can't think of the name for. All I know is that I associate it with the Caribbean. Speaking of percussion though, the live setting really enhanced the quality of the drummer's performance. At times, the rhythms were downright powerful and earthshaking. There was somewhat of a tribal flavor to this band too that I found quite interesting. Again, I think another instrument or two other than percussion would really improve the overall quality of the band. Also, they did seem to lose a bit of momentum with me, and everyone else, whenever they'd start to play a slower song. I even found myself becoming impatient, wanting St. Vincent to take the stage already. Overall, Wildbirds & Peacedrums are an intriguing enough band, but I'm afraid they just don't do enough for me personally to warrant any further investigation. They are worth checking out given how passionately they played. That alone was impressive to me.

Next up, the real reason I was at the El Rey Theater. The lovely Annie Clark and her supporting cast of musicians. Altogether there were five members on stage. Each of them, besides the drummer, also played at least two different instruments. From the moment Annie stepped on stage I, like everyone else I'm sure, was all smiles. I'm extremely impressed with the way she handles herself live, the way her voice sounds (incredible), and the way she plays her guitar. Even though it was an electric, she used no pick, only her fingers. There were also quirks to her playing that I've never really seen before. For instance, whenever she wanted to get a certain sound, she'd bang the upper part of her guitar with her hand. Very interesting indeed. The majority of the songs were of course from the new album. It certainly made me regret that I hadn't picked it up yet. I did know a few songs from it, which she played: "Marrow", "Laughing with a Mouth of Blood", and "Actor Out of Work". All of those were flawlessly recreated and just as compelling live as they are on the album, if not more so. Everything else I wasn't too sure about but enjoyed thoroughly. There were a couple songs from Marry Me, though there might have been more and I can't think of which ones at the moment. The ones I do remember though are: "Jesus Saves, I Spend" and the glorious "Your Lips are Red". I say "glorious" because it was the second of two encore songs after St. Vincent left the stage, and I was floored with the different elements and tweaks added to it as compared to the studio version. Not only was it longer, but Annie input a lot of nasty (in a good way) and aggressive noise from her own guitar that made the song a lot more eerie than I remembered it being. I would even dare say that the song turned quite doom-y at certain parts, and every instrument soon droned sweet droning noise, building up to a crescendo of chaos before eventually coming back down to finish the final chorus. It's really hard to put into words, but I hope I at least have given you an idea of how strangely bizarre and unexpected it was, but no less enthralling to watch and listen to. In fact, I hope this kind of weird experimentation that Annie is so fond of continues over onto future albums. Oh, and to top things off, Annie is also damn entertaining between songs. The crowd spurred on some of the amusing comments she made, such as her saying she was reminded of it being a "4th grade soccer match", complete with a fanatic crowd, but "in the best possible way of course," she added, "and an undefeated season...championship game."

So, all in all, St. Vincent was everything I could have hoped for. If anything, the only fault is mine for not being familiar with all of her songs yet. But that will soon change.

(Not from this show)

St. Vincent's discography:
Marry Me (2007)
Actor (2009)

Photograph is taken from Wikipedia, respectively.

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