I got an enewsletter from St. Vincent (customer retention!) with tour info. Of course Orlando dates were nowhere to be seen, but I did see a weekend date at The Tabernacle in Atlanta. On the mind-numbing drive up 75 (maybe not as bad as I-10 through the panhandle) I realize that this may be the first time I’ve gone out of my way for a female artist. By “out of my way” I mean making a trip out of it. There is a short list of bands I will travel anywhere I can afford (two towns over) to see. Radiohead, the Pumpkins or anything Billy, The Black Crowes, Queens of the Stone Age, Modest Mouse, Placebo, My Morning Jacket, and maybe a few others make that list. I think I can add Annie Clark to that list.
She is just a powerhouse – and easy on the eyes, ya know what I mean? Huh-huh? She is a brilliant songwriter and singer producing some of the most intense and intelligent indie pop out there. She hit what I thought was a sort of apogee with her last album, Strange Mercy, but Annie’s collaboration with David Byrne, Love This Giant, is mindblowing. That experience with Byrne – writing, recording, and performing – seems to have energized her and pushed her to new levels. Her eponymous 5th album is her best yet.
What makes me go ka-ka-cuckoo for her is that beyond her aforementioned strengths she is a true axeman (woman). She is deceptive in her shredding prowess. Annie reminds me of Prince in a weird way. Don’t gasp! Stick with me. She can easily stand toe-to-toe with other rock artists in the songwriting category, but she takes it a step further than pop sensibility because at any moment she can just take over a performance on the merit of her soaring, screaming ax. Not many people that aren’t in a jam or metal band do that. Take the Smashing Pumpkins for instance. Maybe you are a casual fan or remember a few songs you liked and decide to see a concert. What you are really going to get is the Billy Corgan Guitar Clinic. Annie can do that.
On Saturday night at The Tabernacle she played with all the charisma and precision she is known for. It was parts pop diva-ship, performance art, and rock show. The moments when she stomped a pedal and stepped in front of the mic or climbed her lighted staircase, Miss Clark would unload scorching six string fury on our faces and the crowd howled in recognition of the awesomeness. She owns it. The rest of the band was stellar and mostly electronic working synths and samples, and “manipulating 0s and 1s.” They were precise, adding the technical touches and textures that make her albums so rich. Her drummer was obviously fantastic as he locked down to a click-track and played with drum machine accuracy, but I felt like he needed to open up. I wanted the drums to be more assertive and propulsive. I wanted them to make the funky sections a little dirtier and the rocking sections a little more explosive, but you can’t complain about perfect time.