Scout Niblett/St. Vincent
By Ben Westhoff
Near the end of last night’s Scout Niblett and St. Vincent show at the Bowery Ballroom, I walked by the merch table, which was basically a shrine to St. Vincent. Also known as Annie Clark, she’s an indie “It” girl who runs with the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens and her “St. V” logo was plastered on tote bags, T’s and CDs. There was not a Scout Niblett item to be seen. I asked the woman working the table—counting what appeared to be big stack of Clark cash—what gave, and she said the Niblett stuff wasn’t selling very well so they’d put it away.
This is a result, no doubt, of the two performers’ contrasting stage personalities. Though they have a lot in common—both enormously talented and beautiful singer-songwriters who owe a debt to Björk and have recorded for Beggars Banquet—St. Vincent sells her esoteric act with a wink and a smile, while Niblett simply bashes you over the head with dizzying, eardrum-splattering bursts, and doesn’t give a shit if you like it or not.
Taking the stage in a loose-fitting glittery black dress and a white garment that may have been a bathrobe or a lab coat, Niblett—born Emma Louise Niblett—barely addressed the crowd at all. She stared intently at her red and white electric guitar while rocketing through songs from her recent Dinosaur Egg EP and substantial back catalog. (She didn’t play her cover of The Cars’ “Just What I Needed,” sadly.) Backed only by a drummer—who also didn’t look up—she commanded the half-full room completely.
“I love you!” someone shouted during a pause.
“I love you more!” someone else countered. She ignored them both.
St. Vincent, meanwhile, agreed to a marriage proposal from a drunken suitor in the balcony during her set, the room now at about full capacity. (She’s obviously fishing— considering her just-released album is called Marry Me.) Pencil-thin in a white dress and black leggings matching the curly hair falling in her face, she did a sexy Steve Vai act on the guitar—even deliberately knocking an upright drum machine to the ground with a graceful swing of her axe’s neck. The only thing that tempered her charm was her Sally Field-esque faux-graciousness. “I can’t believe you all came to see me!” she said a number of times, or something to that effect.
But she sang flawlessly, with just a hint of Kate Bush (never a bad idea) into a pair of microphones, one with distortion, one without. Her complicated stage act came off effortlessly, in fact, fairly amazing considering she’s only 24 years old. The female-heavy crowd just about lost their shit during a song about a woman shooting her beau, called “Bang Bang.”
No wonder. Everybody knows that an adorable waif singing murder ballads is a winning combination.
St. Vincent, “Now Now” (MP3)
From Marry Me (Beggars)