We first stumbled across St. Vincent by accident when she opened for John Vanderslice at one of the last Calvin concerts before we moved away from Grand Rapids. While Mr. Vanderslice put on a fine show, I couldn’t help but feel that St. Vincent upstaged him with a much more striking set of songs, culminating in a near-perfect cover of Jackson Browne’s These Days.
Since then she’s been touring extensively and quite a buzz has built, as evidenced by her sold out London appearance in September and an opening slot at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in November. By the time she reached Bush Hall last week all that touring had clearly paid off with a more commanding stage presence and a band who were clearly enjoying playing off each other.
Like her fellow Sufjan-alumnus My Brightest Diamond, St. Vincent brings her classical training to bear on her pop songs but the result is generally a less dense sound than that of MBD, with the focus on creative arrangements and rhythm. She’s at her best indulging in quirky indie-pop with slightly off-kilter rhythms that regularly defy expectations. With the help of a few stage gimmicks (like a mannequin arm with embedded electronic drums, occasionally used as an over-large guitar pick) and of course a strong set of songs from her debut album Marry Me, she has the crowd in the palm of her hand.