Live: St. Vincent (and David Byrne, and Bryce Dessner, and the Bon Iver Dude) Invade the Allen Room


Good audio, lousy video, though it does seem as though she’s floating in midair.

St. Vincent
Allen Room
Friday, January 29

“Well this is just dreadfully pleasant,” deadpans Annie Clark, summing it all up expertly, as usual. St. Vincent is holding court in the prettiest venue in NYC, vista-wise, the wall behind her composed entirely of windows looking out on Central Park and the apartment windows across the street. “Did you see the couple arguing?” jokes David Byrne, when he (somewhat inevitably) shows up for a tune. “Did you see the little boy watching porno on the wide-screen?”

We have gathered at the behest of Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series, a slightly more frou-frou affair (the seats, the vistas) than St. V is perhaps used to. But it serves the intricate, Sufjan-alumnus, horn-section-adorned, orchestral-rock, baroque-violence side of her personality quite well, very prettily and delicately sung odes to strife and hostility, “Marrow” particularly still the absolute jam. She coos, “I threw flowers in your face/On my sister’s wedding day” with pristine clarity. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon shows up to provide yelping ethereal counterpoint. (That tune from the New Moon soundtrack is pretty good, actually.) Bryce from the National drops by; in her one nod to the larger American songbook, Clark does a slow, torpid cover of “Mistaken for Strangers.” And verily does Mr. Byrne saunter out for “Breathing,” a jaunty tune they’ve been working on together, his goofy yo-yo of a voice overpowering, nicely jolting the daintiness a bit.

I am now somewhat obsessed with Actor, St. V’s 2009 record, played nearly in its entirety — the allure of all that fussy, dainty, classically tinged malice. But such a prim setting leads her to overemphasize the pomp somewhat: The other side of the coin is Clark can shred righteously when she wants to. Which she does not, tonight, alas. Occasionally, though, she does conjure from her various pedals squalls of shrill feedback and distortion, causing a few ladies in front of me to plug their fingers in their ears. This, inexplicably, makes me very happy.

Archive Highlights