Ohmylord. What follows will almost certainly be tl;dr unless you are a big fan of Annie Clark, or a close friend of mine. In truth, I duncurr who you are, I’m telling you about tonight’s gig.
I had been waiting for this day since July 5th, 2009. That was the day after I had saw St. Vincent for the last time. Since then, a lot of things have changed. She has a whole new album, a whole new band, and a whole new bunch of fans. To be honest, I was a little disappointed when I first heard Strange Mercy. St. Vincent is my favourite solo recording artist, and up until then I had loved every second of every song she had ever put out. This is not to say that Strange Mercy is bad, just that everything else she had done had taken my breath away. I maintain that it’s her third best album. Regardless, I was nervously excited to see her for my third time, touring to support it.
To set the scene, I’m on London’s Southbank with my wonderful girlfriend Lucy (who I had first met in the building next door for Sufjan). I’m super alert for passing women with curls, just in case one of them happens to be Annie herself. A sign tells me that photography of any kind is prohibited, and sure enough, when we take our seats (yeah, it was seated) the stage is flanked by two security guards on the watch for rule breakers. Seated gigs have some advantages. Your feet don’t hurt, for one. But the disadvantages are that you can’t totally psyche out to the jams. And Annie wouldn’t dare crowdsurf over you. Also, the venue, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, attracts a higher class kind of patron. The kind that arrives two songs late, and leaves during the encore break (I mean, really?!). As such, for a gig billed as being sold out, there were plenty of empty seats around me.
Okay, on to the music. Cate Le Bon was alright. She had a lovely voice, but I don’t think she was uh… as proficient a guitar player as I would have liked. But then Annie came out. We all know what a beast she is with hers. But for those of you who don’t know, she wrestles with it. She beats it up, and she dances with it. It’s pretty ridiculous. My favourite songs were the reworkings of the older ones. “The Party” was a particular highlight, although “Neutered Fruit” stood out as the most stunning from Strange Mercy. I tried to snap what I could from 7 rows back, wary of the guards and my shutter click giving me away. During her last song, she’s made a habit of diving into the crowd at her US shows, but with everyone in their seats, the next best thing she could do was run up one of the aisles (the furthest from me), inviting lucky audience members to punch her fretboard. It all ended too soon, and after a little hanging around inside, seeing the setlists and guitar picks being swallowed up by a few more desperate fans, I was told to vacate the auditorium by an usher.
But I was not done! Seeing as we had nowhere better to be, we decided to snake around the building and look for the stage door. There, we encountered two couples, also hoping to catch some time with Annie herself. Later we were joined by an older man, who we affectionately named “Gig Daddy” for his obsessive gig going and successive successful setlist acquisition (take a look at his flickr if you don’t believe me). It quickly got really cold, and the other waiting couples decided she was not worth the wait. But after a gargantuan loadout of flight cases, three promises from her tour managers that she would be out soon, tens of press and a steady outgoing stream of smug backstage-passers, and two increasingly cold hours of increasingly anxious conversation, she finally made it out.
She immediately apologised, and felt Lucy’s hands to determine how long we’d been out waiting for her. She remembered Gig Daddy from having met him twice before, but was mortified that she couldn’t remember me. She signed my poster saying “Dearest Paul, I love you”, and promised she’d be back to our shores in February, agreeing to opt for a standing venue next time, as per my recommendation. She posed for photos with us, the best of which is above (although I look a little like a small animal, and Lucy is kind of embarrassed to be posted here, but OHWELLS), apologised again for our wait, and thanked us for coming out. We had finally found true victory. IT’S GOING TO BE A CHAMPAGNE YEAR BBZ!