St. Vincent w/ Foreign Born – [Live]

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

This was not my first time at the dance. Ages ago, mere weeks into last August, I marveled at the Echo’s tidy ambience as a slew of strange bands paraded across the stage and Annie Clark stomped out a fiery lullaby of smashed guitars and freckles. Now, only a few yards beneath the Echo at it’s larger twin the Echoplex, that memory is quickly fading.

The Echoplex appears much larger and more proprietary than its upstairs stage. The bar is constantly crowded, there are mirrors everywhere, and the stage is at least a couple feet taller and set off with a barrier to create a photo pit. And maybe it was just me, but the drinks seemed more expensive. The St. Vincent camp was as accommodating and friendly as ever, and I was shuffled in warmly despite a routine press list mix-up.

By the time I had gotten a drink and settled in, Foreign Born was halfway through their first song. Unlike last time, there would be no meandering openers to distract and delay the paying customers. Tonight was all business.

Foreign Born is a beguiling act, eschewing the usual overindulgence of “indie” folk rock for a surprisingly violent sort of emotional upsurge. A strange distortion of an old black and white film played on the screen behind them, proving to be more of a distraction than anything. The band, bathed in a glaucous assembly of lights, rocked through a hard-hitting collection of songs from their newest album On The Wing Now. The part that impressed me most, if I had to choose, was their almost baroque-pop approach to the vocal duties. Even though singer Matt Popieluch had the situation well in hand, the other members of Foreign Born were not to be silenced, adding an ethereal sort of lyrical presence to the already quite-ethereal rock sound.

The crowd was reaching “clustered masses” status by the time Annie and Co. made their way to the stage. These clustered masses then immediately took it upon themselves to express their collective romantic urges to Ms. Clark. Of course this left the diminutive songbird in a fit of blushing, and the crowd only grew more smitten. I’ll admit I was quite taken as well, but choose to fight the urge on behalf of journalistic detachment and elitist iconoclasm.

The set list was disappointingly predictable. Not that I’d expected anything otherwise, but I had held some hopes that this St. Vincent show might display some whispers of new material, or at the very least an awkward array of surprising cover songs. No such luck. As heart-wrenchingly sweet as St. Vincent is, it was still difficult to overcome the sinister thoughts of “Oh, this song again.” The company I came with smiled in a glossy sort of rapture, staring and singing along in gleeful zombie joy. So I devoted myself to vigilantly keeping my drink fresh and peered at the stage in hazy nostalgia. All the hits were present, including a slow, swaying rendition of the usually up-tempo “Paris Is Burning.” When Annie played “Marry Me,” the crowd responded with their usual proposals. Everyone laughed when she sang that humorous crescendo “We’ll do what Mary and Joseph did… without the kid.” Even Annie gave a giggle, the same giggle I imagine she gives at each and every performance. I think you can see what I’m getting at.

Yes, my love of Annie, her peculiar pop songs, and her sparkling beauty remain intact; but like all of my relationships it seems to be aging quickly. It’s nobody’s fault, you know, but things are starting to stagnate. It’s odd too, since we have so much in common: We both love the show Arrested Development and the book “Please Kill Me.” It’s sad to see it wane like this, but I’m certain it’ll pick back up with a vengeance as soon as she comes back to town, hopefully with some new songs for me. I’ll have to try not to, in the words of our favorite TV show, “be such an Ann-Hog.”

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