Tuesday, August 11th, 2009
Laughing With A Mouthful Of Blood
St. Vincent and Gentleman Reg at The Horseshoe in Toronto
Frank YangSome shows you want to see in a packed, sweaty club. Others you don’t. In the case of St. Vincent, more than two years removed from her last visit to Toronto, you’ll take her anywhere you can but as much as I love the Horseshoe Tavern, its sweltering environs on Saturday night weren’t what I’d call the ideal setting for Annie Clark’s elegant pop and its Jekyll-and-Hyde/frosted miniwheat balance of beauty and abrasion. The band did what they could to dress it up, hanging white drapes across the back wall and setting up some dramatic lighting, but something more akin to a church or theatre would have seemed more appropriate. Or perhaps just somewhere with more effective air conditioning.
Opener Gentleman Reg has been somewhat ubiquitous on Toronto stages since the Spring release of his latest record Jet Black, but considering the length of the layoff between it and 2004’s Darby & Joan, he can be forgiven for making the most of the opportunity. Reg Vermue has always had a gift for blending folk and pop, but I’ve felt he needed the proper backing players for his songs to properly shine – an opinion that was shared, apparently, because the band that he’s assembled for Jet Black really hits that sweet spot, though I’m not sure if the players on the record were the same ones on stage with him on Saturday – I don’t have the proper roster notes to comment. Either way, the balance of feyness and punch on display this evening seemed just right and it was good to see Reg settled so comfortably in the role of frontman. I’d missed numerous opportunities to see him play throughout the Summer – glad to have finally rectified that.
As distinctive as Annie Clark’s creative vision is, live she’s also much-defined by her band, or lack thereof. The first time I saw her in February 2007, she was supporting Midlake and operating solo, and as such made heavy use of looping pedals and a Stompin’ Tom-approved board for percussion. The next time in Austin that September she’d expanded to a power trio format and though that configuration sounded a little more conventional, it freed her up musically. This time, she was fronting a five-piece St. Vincent complete with utility players tasked with handling a myriad of instruments including guitar, bass, keys, violin, saxophone and clarinet – obviously ready to do the orchestrations and textures of Actor justice.
And the presence of those extra players made a world of difference in recreating the new material, of which the set list was mostly comprised (as well as the solo cover of “Dig A Pony” which again seems to be a set staple). It’s hard to imagine “Marrow” or “Black Rainbow” without the trill of the woodwinds and brass, but there they were, adding crucial accent to Clark’s crystalline voice (or chorused/delayed/voice when she sang through her second mic) and then getting gleefully obliterated when she went in for a fuzzed-out, shred-happy guitar break. And it was that wanton and wonderful collision of beauty and brutality, punctuated by Clark’s charmingly off-kilter banter, that defined the evening. That and the stifling heat.
Panic Manual and eye have reviews of the show. The Globe & Mail has a feature interview with Annie Clark while Renegade Bus has an interview with Evan Smith, one of the backing musicians who makes St. Vincent a band and not just a pseudonym.
Photos: St. Vincent, Gentleman Reg @ The Horseshoe – August 8, 2009
MP3: St. Vincent – “Actor Out Of Work”
MP3: St. Vincent – “The Strangers”
MP3: St. Vincent – “Now Now”
MP3: Gentleman Reg – “We’re In A Thunderstorm”
MP3: Gentleman Reg – “How We Exit”
MP3: Gentleman Reg – “Plan On Including Me”
Video: St. Vincent – “Actor Out Of Work”
Video: St. Vincent – “Jesus Saves I Spend”
Video: Gentleman Reg – “How We Exit”
Video: Gentleman Reg – “Rewind”
Video: Gentleman Reg – “We’re In A Thunderstorm”
Video: Gentleman Reg – “Boyfriend Song”
MySpace: St. Vincent
MySpace: Gentleman Reg
Here’s some news – St. Vincent’s one-time bandleader Sufjan Stevens has announced the details of his previously-implied Fall tour, and it’s a small one. As in venue. Though he could easily fill rooms two or three times the size for his first local show in four years, Stevens is opting for a club tour and will return to Lee’s Palace on October 1, where he played last in November 2004. Contrary to previous speculation, this show will not be in support of the BQE show/soundtrack coming out October 20, which raises the question not only of what material will be aired – a melange of Illinois, Michigan and Seven Swans seems most likely – but what the theme of the costumes will be. There had better be costumes, Sufjan. Don’t you be going sensible on us. Support for the tour will be Cryptacize, and tickets will be doled out very carefully. Ticket details are forthcoming later this week, but they will go on sale Satureday and be limited to two a person with them only being available to be picked up at the venue the night of the show. But you know that they could also insist that patrons have to eat a jar of flaming cockroaches before being admitted and Lee’s would be packed before 8PM.
MP3: Sufjan Stevens – “The Henney Buggy Band”
MP3: Sufjan Stevens – “The Man Of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts”
MP3: Sufjan Stevens – “Casimir Pulaski Day”
MP3: Sufjan Stevens – “Sister”
MP3: Sufjan Stevens – “Holland”
MP3: Cryptacize – “Blue Tears”
Those holding their breath for the release of Final Fantasy’s Heartland can circle January 5, 2010 as a date to exhale. Owen Pallett revealed via Twitter that the record would be out the first week of the new year, and that’s the Tuesday of said week. Also noteworthy is that he has signed with Domino Records to release the album worldwide, though Blocks will presumably continue to handle things in Canada.
Victoria Bergsman will release her second album as Taken By Trees in East Of Eden, due out September 8. The first MP3 from it is available to sample and there’s a feature piece at National Geographic that follows Bergsman to Pakistan where she recorded the new record.
Paste reports that Built To Spill’s next album There Is No Enemy has finally been given a release date of October 6 – that’s the same day as night one of their two-night residency at Lee’s Palace in Toronto.