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St. Vincent at the Walker

5 Oct

“I’m sorry, you really should hear the guitar on this song.”

That was the understatement of the night from Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent, at the 10pm show Sunday night at the Walker Art Center. Technically the second show of her tour, having played a sold out 7pm show, after getting the guitar patched in Clark tore up the slinky opening of “Surgeon”, slyly cooing “I spent the summer on my back,” as the crowd stayed gently fixed in their seats, only to be jolted to the edge by the surreal and entrancing sounds coming out of Clark’s Fenders.

Playing mostly tunes from her new record Strange Mercy the six-string Stravinsky filled the deep, narrow confines of the McGuire Theater with explosions of powerful restraint, a contradiction in terms maybe, but Clark has always managed to create enormous, strange sounds without seeming to troubled by over-expending energy. At a St. Vincent show, nothing is wasted and everything is beautiful, from the music to the swirling, sculpture-like light installation that lifted the night from a plain theater setting into a heightened visual realm.* from the thumping psychedelic sexiness of “Chloe in the Afternoon” to acid attack of “Year of the Tiger” and the the delicious, Leonard-Cohen inflected “Champagne Year” with it’s biting finish, “I make a living telling people what they want to hear, and I tell you it’s going to be a champagne year.”

Another treat in the set was a heavier, spacious arrangement of “Actor Out of Work” from Actor (which Clark introduced by saying, “You might remember this song from a video with a lot of people crying”) and the furthest back that Clark reached was to “Your Lips Are Red” from Marry Me, which along with “Human Racing”, may be the song from that record that best presaged the direction of St. Vincent. With her excellent backing band, Matthew Johnson on drums, Toko Yasuda on Moog and backup vocals and especially Daniel Mintseris on keys, it would have been gratifying to hear a lighter orchestral song like “Now, Now” or “Marry Me” put through the buzzing grinder.

After closing up the set with “Strange Mercy”, Clark came back out with Mintseris to perform an operatic, sparse and entirely bewitching version of “The Party”, followed “Marrow” to end the night. Between the exhortations of a single, very vocal member of the audience to stand up** Clark giggled, and we in the audience ate it right up, “I like your spirit Minneapolis. I’ve always liked your spirit.”

*Apparently Chris Riemenschneider of the Star tribune didn’t think so.

**This is always a fine line to tread- I love that you are loving the show but when your loving includes a 90 second scream at a volume and pitch that drives cats to distraction and clapping off rhythm, you’re not really making it any better for anyone else, especially in a theater setting. But I digress.

Opener Cate Le Bon, whose quote of the night may have been “This is my second show in Minneapolis in one night. I’m over it.” That may be a little harsh on the songstress, whose Nico-like tunes were lulling and spare, but for Welsh frontwomen right now, give me Ritzy Bryan any day.

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  1. A Slice of 2011 | Cake In 15 - December 26, 2011

    […] St. Vincent at the Walker: “Clark giggled, and we in the audience ate it right up, “I like your spirit Minneapolis. I’ve always liked your spirit.”” […]

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