Saturday, July 19, 2008

St. Vincent @ Castle Clinton, 7/10

Manhattan's River to River Festival, a series of free summer concerts all over downtown New York, kicked off last Thursday night with a performance from St. Vincent, Annie Clark, at Castle Clinton in Battery Park. Hundreds gathered around the modest outdoor stage in chairs and on their feet under sunny skies after waiting in line for a free ticket.

Clark came out in a simple vintage white dress paired with fishnet stalkings, looking like a tiny porcelain doll. Every band member was also clad in white—a saintly display for St. Vincent. After a short instrumental introduction, Clark went right into "Now Now," the album opener on her 2007 debut LP, Marry Me. The fierce coda found her in violent fits on her devil red guitar, which matched the shade of her bold red lipstick, looking like a woman possessed. Much like her music, St. Vincent has always seemed to be something not quite of this world; jumping from her charged guitar solos to her somewhat awkward dry humor banter between songs, her live show can be as bizarre as it is captivating.

Clark played most songs off of Marry Me. They all received the live treatment, each one playing like a grand opus, featuring some serious musicians on violin, flute, saxophone and clarinet. She also played three new songs that will most likely appear on her next album, which she said would be coming out early next year. The new material varied in style with something for all of us. There was "Movin' On," a soulful Prince-inspired number, and another lighter, beat-heavy uptempo song. The third new song, and one of my favorites of the night, was what you'd imagine St. Vincent meets Peter and the Wolf to sound like (scary brilliant). It was lovely.

Clark and the band ended with "Paris Is Burning." They then returned to the stage for one last song, the intense "Your Lips Are Red," which tends to steal the show. However, the promising new material stood out most. It's clear that Clark is not short on inspiration for the next album; St. Vincent is exploring new musical ground, and that can only mean great things.

St. Vincent comes to Boston for a show at the Museum of Fine Arts on 9/25. You can download my phone interview with her from February in .mp3 format here.

- Jessy Bartlett

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