St. Vincent Fitzgerald's October 25, 2011
There's always a special air that lingers amidst an artist's hometown show. While St. Vincent brainchild Annie Clark technically hails from Dallas, she was welcomed with open, Texas-sized arms last night at Fitzgerald's, where she and her touring band performed a 90-minute set promoting her third and most recent release, Strange Mercy.
Aftermath had first seen St. Vincent last summer, at Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. There, Clark held her own before a crowd of 50,000 fest-goers, but we looked forward to the opportunity to see her in a considerably more intimate setting this time around.
Aftermath spoke with Clark last week about Mercy. During the interview, the songwriter expressed her excitement about the opportunity to play "so much guitar" on this tour; within the first moments of her set, we observed why. Opener "Surgeon" flaunted her impeccable Berklee-trained guitar playing and frenzied, finger-picked solos.
Clad in black layers of opaque tights, shorts, a blousy sequined top and contrasting splash of blood-red lipstick, Clark's mere presence was dramatic. Her stage show was as striking, with bright, intricate lighting and frequent strobes and smoke clouds.
"Thank you, Houston," Clark said, in her first address to the obviously adoring crowd. "It's really, really, really good to be home," she continued, a statement which ignited a roar of pleased support from her fans.
Between songs, Clark offered insight into new songs, such as "Cruel." "I just released a video for this song, in which I'm kidnapped by a family. In the video, I cook, clean, and do motherly things," she explained.
"I fail at all of these things - probably not too unlike I would in real life - and then they bury me alive in the backyard." This Mercy song, in particular, transferred extremely well live.
Some of Clark's informative tidbits proved no match for her hardcore-fan crowd.
"I don't know if you guys follow the Chinese Zodiac...," she managed to say, before being cut off by a crowd eager to beat her to the punch, shouting the title, "Year of the Tiger!" Clark appreciatively recognized the lack of need for further explanation, and rather than finishing her story, launched right into the song instead.
The set predominantly featured Mercy material, with a few Actor tracks thrown in, including "Save Me From What I Want" and set closer "Marrow." A gritty, in-your-face cover of British post-punk band Pop Group's "She Is Beyond Good and Evil" was a treat.
After Clark walked off stage, the crowd, still wanting more, repeatedly chanted "An-nie!" until their muse returned to the stage.
"Oh, man," she said, raising her hands above her eyes as she gazed at the crowd. "I wish I had a giant mirror so you all could see what I'm looking at right now," she said, sweetly.
Clark shed her guitar for a near a cappella delivery of Actor's "The Party," before closing out with her only visit to 2007's Marry Me with "Your Lips Are Red," during which she held her guitar above the crowd, maniacally shaking it while shouting unknowns - a moment of frenzy followed by Clark's subsequent composure. After quickly re-tuning her guitar, and she returned to a repeated, haunting closing chorus of "Your skin's so fair it's not fair."
From one Texan to a mass of others, Clark bid her crowd farewell with a simple, sincere "Thank you, Houston."
Personal Bias: Fully favorable; Clark is one of my favorite modern guitarists... though I'd have loved to hear "Marry Me"...
The Crowd: A good-spirited mix of knowledgeable, artsy, fancy beer-drinking fans.
Overheard In the Crowd: Lots of "Marry Me!" requests, and I think I heard one "Divorce Me!"
Random Notebook Dump: We spotted Clark's parents sitting in the Fitz balcony. Cute.
Surgeon Cheerleader Save Me From What I Want Actor Out Of Work Dilettante Cruel Just the Same But Brand New Champagne Year Neutered Fruit Strange Mercy She Is Beyond Good and Evil (Pop Group) Northern Lights Year of the Tiger Marrow
The Party Your Lips Are Red
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.