Canada’s own Gentleman Reg opened to a tightly packed Horseshoe Tavern late Saturday night. Having heard of them, but not actually listened to any of their music, I was pleasantly surprised. Reg Vermue’s distinctive vocals and upbeat indie-folk tunes made for a lively opener. I enjoyed them so much I picked up their newest album, “Jet Black”, and I can say that they are so much better live than on their recordings. The onstage band added an entirely different layer and the background female vocals and harmonies made the music just that much better. Plus – it didn’t hurt that they had a female drummer (how rare is that)! Gentleman Reg definitely impressed – but really, that was to be expected since they’re signed to the always on-the-mark Arts & Crafts label.
The switch between opener to headliner seemed excruciating on account that the that the venue didn’t seem to have any air conditioning; it was also an unusually long wait (St. Vincent didn’t come on ’till about 12 am).
You can’t help but notice Annie Clark’s ethereal beauty (and famous double-mic set-up) when St. Vincent first steps on stage – in fact it’s probably the first thing you that draws you in. But don’t let her fairytale good looks, complete with dark curls, doe eyes, and skin “so fair it’s not fair” (ha ha!), fool you into prejudging her musical style or performance ability. That girl can seriously shred a guitar.
Clark chose to start off softly, opening with “Marry Me”, the title song off her 2007 debut. The remainder of her set was filled mostly with songs off her new album, “Actor”, which seems a lot darker and more gritty than its predecessor. All her new songs require a very versatile three-piece backing band which included percussion, strings, woodwinds. It’s obvious that Annie Clark decided to go all out with her artistic vision this time around, holding nothing back and just letting her creativity take her wherever it wanted her to go. Better album? I don’t know. Different – for sure. Definitely more elaborate, ornate. I’m just not sure if her more eccentric pieces translate as well live as they did on the recording. Some parts were just a little too much (but maybe that’s just me). There were, of course, more delicate pieces like “The Bed” and “Just the Same but Brand New” which really showcased her airy but sensual vocals and were in my opinion the more powerful live pieces. She played seesaw on both ends of the spectrum, but all in all it was a pretty even performance. Spot on vocals and insane guitar work. If there’s one thing she needs to work on it’s her lack of stage banter. She tried – I’ll give her that – but when she did it came off just a little awkward (but adorable nonetheless).
How to describe St. Vincent? There really is no one to compare her too, because she’s in a element of her own. Her gnarly, gritty, and almost gross guitar sounds are in stark contrast to her soft, smooth vocals, but somehow they just seem to go together perfectly. Girl can play guitar like no other, jam on the keys, pen lyrics that make you think, and sing with the best of the. Annie Clark isn’t just another pretty face – she is the epitome of what an artist should really be.