Concert Review: St. Vincent, The Horseshoe, Aug 8


Toronto – St. Vincent played the Horseshoe last Saturday night. It’s been a few years since their last visit, and having been to their last Toronto show (also at the ‘Shoe), it was interesting to see what has changed and what hasn’t. Still present is lead-singer/guitarist Annie Clark ‘s unpretentious and cute stage banter, but now she has a larger following. Not only was the band bigger, but so was the audience. This time around she played to a sold out crowd after the recent release of her 2nd album, Actor.

If you recognize this song, maybe you could yell the name of it, or clap. Nevermind, do whatever you want, I don’t want to micro-manage you.   – Annie Clark

Seeing St. Vincent in 2007 at the Horseshoe just after the release of Marry Me, her debut album, was one of the standout rock shows of the year for me. I was very much looking forward to her playing songs from her new album along with a healthy dose of songs from the first. Although they did play a smattering of songs from the debut, I would have loved to hear a few more; and the crowd was not far behind me. They did start the set with the title track from the Marry Me album, but I could tell almost immediately that a lot of the energy that I remembered from their last show was curiously absent. The first song trundled from start to finish and seemed set the pace for the rest of the show.

One of the things I remember most vividly about her last Toronto appearance was how this unassuming diminuitive young lady could shred guitar like nobody’s business. She rocked out on an extended, inspired, and gritty solo providing a definite wow factor that had the crowd thinking, “How can a girl that tiny rock a guitar like that?”. I was a little disappointed that Annie’s rock guitar skills weren’t as prominent as they were the last time. Despite the sold out crowd at the beginning, it felt like the ‘Shoe thinned out by the end of the set.

Annie did still have her distinctive two-mic setup: one mic for innocent girl voice, one mic for bad girl voice (distorted). It makes for a fun time watching her switch between the two mic’s. In addition to the standard rythm section, she had a violin player and a woodwinds player (sax, flute, and other instruments). Under normal circumstances I think the additions to the band add a pleasing padding to Annie’s haunting lyrics and soulful songwriting. This time around I felt we were only getting a fraction of what this band is capable of on a good night.

It’s the nature of live music that sometimes you’re “on” and sometimes you’re not. Maybe the band can’t find their groove, or they can’t strike a connection with the crowd. This can lead to a lacklustre performance. Despite a lot of success in the interim, St. Vincent just wasn’t able to bring the same kind of raw energy that was on display during their last visit. Here’s hoping we’ll catch them on a better night next time. I’ll see you there.

Posted on by Mark in Concerts, Everything