Upstate Concert Hall, 3/7/2015
Support Act: Jenny Hval
Somehow it’s starting to get warm in Upstate New York, and the hip kids are getting restless. A good number of them have descended in this blue one-level hall eager to nod their heads, sing along and, as the woman in a dark flowery skirt beside me is apparently doing, meringue our way to the truth. And like some porcelain angel straight outta da Bauhaus School of All Things Funky, Sister Annie Clark has come to lead us all into temptation. Albeit an electric one, cause where else will you see the local intelligentsia mix it up with soccer moms in Patagonias and the neon Molly crowd?!?!
NYC? South Boston? Austin? LA? Boulder? Chi-raq? London? Troy?!
Okay, fine… you DO see ’em in all those places. But still, this here?! This shit right here, is a good shindig.
Uniting the sonic texture she’s carefully crafted along with a cry to unplug your consciousness from what is siphoning you (technology, as the case may be) and hopefully even re-engage ourselves (Who’s the one animal/All by yourself, all of us). With her eponymous album, St. Vincent added a better description to those emotions you get when one finds oneself floating in the nothingness of the modern era. This is presented with what is now a classic tech-dystopian-R2D2-is-the-president scenario… yeah, exactly. You betta double check your iPhone, homey. All of these are ingeniously mixed in with easy-to-march-to beats, a thick & grinding guitar work, and the shiny veneer of a dance album. She’s gone well into her own abilities, and it’s a very good sound.
Opener Jenny Hval of Rockettothesky fame, armed with an intensely detailed visual accompaniment, set the tone with her fresh and beautifully relaxing brand of melancholia. Moving from jazzy to blues vocals in a span of two songs all laid in a bed of downtempo rhythms, she can win you over. And she did, garnering a substantial round applause. Its impressive, especially knowing that most of the audience have probably never heard of her. I know I didn’t, and yours-truly had to get acquainted to her back catalog that afternoon (take a gander at “Innocence is Kinky”).
The “good people of Albany” (as she sometimes referred to us, between songs) came here united by that St Vincent sound. That, or the simple fact that this turned out to be a heavy fucking show. Most of us didn’t realize this until after the first few bars of “Rattlesnake” where the back-to-brunette artist showed the crowd something a lot of critics have agreed on: St. Vincent is a very underrated guitarist. This made about 35 dudes wearing skinny-pants-hop their way to the back and put on ear plugs. Noobs. On “Digital Witness”, the crunchy guitars stepped back a bit and let the drone from the rhythm section highlight that stoic and pleading voice.
Ms. Clark is a very effective live act, not just because of the interactions with her audiences but how she how also conveys herself. From the strangely beautiful heavy metalness of “Your lips are red”, the longing in her eyes as she sang “Prince Johnny”, to the grunge throwback “Chearleader” and the bright white lights that pulsed for “The Year of the Tiger”. The robotic dance routines and fists in the air left you not wanting more. But that’s the point, because a St Vincent show doesn’t make you leave wanting more. The smile on the men and women leaving the concert reinforces my initial opinion, her sound is THAT GOOD.
And to this soundtrack, we could nod our heads and roll our shoulders into the New World Order together as I hope she would like us to.