By Rico Vidales
Tuesday night was special. Why? Cause I and everyone else at the House of Blues that evening got baptized by St. Vincent. (Pretty sure that’s how it works, right? If you’re a saint you should basically wield all the powers of religion IMO…well except transubstantiation. That’s all JC.) In support of her latest release, MASSEDUCTION (2017), the Dallas-raised musician stopped by Houston for one of the last installments of her Fear the Future Tour, I tell you what. There’s nothing to fear about a future with St. Vincent in it, cause she brought the House to its knees.
Somewhat uncharacteristically, I’m gonna start things off with recapping about the opening act, which I never ever do. I know, I know, I’m an aristocrat, but unless you’re Sonic Youth opening for Pearl Jam or Queens of the Stone Age opening for Nine Inch Nails or Bellevue-based metal monster legends, Queensryche, opening for Judas fucking Priest at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine, CA circa 2005 (????), then I just don’t got what it takes to attend a concert early enough to see the opening act. Fortunately for St. Vincent, her family loves her very much, because they might just have been the greatest opening act of all time.
Always good for a surprise or two, St. Vincent recruited her uncle and auntie, Tuck aka “Mighty T” and Patti, aka renown musical (and romantic) duo, aka inspirations to artists such as St. Vincent and Captain and Tennille  for nearly 40 years, to open the show. They were amazing and looked clean af. Both of them sported all white. I’m talking dress, pants, shoes, hair. It’s like when people show God in the movies and God’s donning the white suit, which is actually more like Scarface. Yeah, they looked just like Scarface. They’re music cleaned house too. They busted out they’re own renditions of Micheal Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” coincidentally the only two songs I was there for. In all honesty, the whole thing made my eyes want to bleed tears. Very touching.
This needs to be a thing. We need to demand that our favorite artists start forcing allowing their family members to serve as their show openers. Seriously, I got reasons. A. Convenient way of cutting costs via the unwritten rule that your family members always gotta have your back as long as you say you love them and let them embarrass you. B. It totally cashes in on this affinity we as the audience have for old people doing stuff, assuming we’re not driving behind, walking behind, paying behind, or literally doing anything behind them. C. Not to mention, they tell stories about you that only old family members know and willingly go out of their way to share, which is funny and adorable. Tuck and Pati perfected this approach, all while playing a jazzy Django Reinhardt style version of MJ. Really, it’s a no brainer. Ironically, St. Vincent’s greatest contribution to music may in fact be something totally unrelated to her musical output when you think about it. Genius really. (What’s that? What about artists with less Hallmark-worthy relatives in their family? No Worries! People love disfunction and messed up shit so you’re good!)
Okay. Have I said enough about Tuck and Patti? I mean, I just really want to make it clear that I thought the greatest couple in show business slayed beyond reason and supported Annie, that’s St. Vincent to us. Speaking of which, she really held her own. What would expect? It’s St. freakin Vincent and she absolutely positively put on a helluva of show. The first half of her set consisted of oldies but goodies from her catalogue, in chronological order, while the second part…well let’s just say it brought something to the table.
“Marry Me John” (Marry Me, 2007)
“Now Now” (Marry Me, 2007)
“The Strangers” (Actor, 2009)
“Actor Out of Work” (Actor, 2009)
“Cruel” (Strange Mercy, 2011)
“Cheerleader” (Strange Mercy, 2011)
“Strange Mercy” (Strange Mercy, 2011)
“Digital Witness” (St. Vincent, 2014)
“Rattlesnake” (St. Vincent, 2014)
“Birth in Reverse” (St. Vincent, 2014)
MASSEDUCTION All of it from beginning to end.
Whoa baby, now that’s a set list! Commencing the whole shebang with “Marry Me John” helped us all settle into our seats and souls. A real nice way of prepping us like you do a turkey on Thanksgiving. So I guess you can say everything that came after that˜ was more prepping, just with more flavor and force (we’re still talking turkeys). “Cruel” is a catchy number that sounds like “Disguises” by The Who, so I liked it.
It goes without saying that all St. Vincent songs sound mesmerizing. She’s a genius at writing beautiful music, thanks to well-crafted melodies, harmonies that hit somehow hit just right but come with a surprise note or two, and soothing vocals. The first five songs definitely proved my case. But then came “Cheerleader,” right after, a fan favorite including of yours truly. If we’re still talking turkeys, this was the oven part, or deep frier I should say. We the turkey, aka audience, got thrown into the fire with this song, especially when that heavy, declamatory chorus hit like a sledgehammer. In the ensuing moments, the whole mood of the show got funkafied and steamier with songs such as “Digital Witness,” “Rattlesnake,” and “Birth in Reverse.” Needless to say, this concert came with some firepower.
From starting stage right with nothing but herself and a curtain, St. Vincent’s set evolved over the course of the first half. Well into her performance, she played center with a full-blown light show, big ass projection screen, and a different colored guitar nearly every song. There came times I nearly went blind from the light bulb blitzkrieg, which sucked cause I couldn’t keep mine eyes off the interesting set designs. One bummer about St. Vincent’s whole approach was the lack of a backing band. I understand the artistic intent behind the whole thing (and possible financial decision, cause you never know when an artist and their concert promoters come falling on hard times), but how is playing live music with a live band not the better choice? Like I said, St. Vincent kicks enough ass on her own, so kudos there. But the great part of attending a concert for single artists who usually make up their own bands like Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, and many others is witnessing how all the sonic elements on record translate onstage. You also get to show some love to session musicians. Despite this omission, the show’s amazing production resonated more.
Following a brief intermission, which I thought very considerate on Annie’s part, she dove into MASSEDUCTION, IN ITS ENTIRETY. For those who don’t know, St. Vincent’s albums generally follow some sort of conceptual thread, from drugged up housewives (Strange Mercy) to cult leaders (St. Vincent). Similarly, MASSEDUCTION is a concept album, though more auto-biographical according to the author herself in a press release. Drugs, sex, rock and roll, death, relationships, power, this album covers the gambit. Hearing it in its entirety stood as nothing short of spectactularwhatthefuckthisisbadassbeyondbelief. My favorite songs played off the album were “Los Angeles,” “Savior,” and “Slow Disco,” with the first two in the running for sexiest songs in a non-funk/r&b category, which still constitutes some swanky material! The sound, the set, the effects all coalesced into an unnervingly bombastic yet intimate experience. Which is why from this day forth we’re making February 20th, St. Vincent Day, so move over Saints Jacinta and Francisco Marto. Recognize greatness.
Saying Annie Clark just plays guitar is akin to saying she just writes music. She composes awesome music and shreds fucking awesome guitar. Her style and clarity, dexterity and nimbleness, and mainly, her killer riffs kept me cringing in that filthy, awestruck it hurts so good way. Also, THOSE GUITARS. I would have stolen every single one of them given five good minutes and an alibi.
Not trying to be a jerk, but we all know that the last song off of MASSEDUCTION, “Smoking Section,” is basically 1967’s “Happy Together” by The Turtles, right? You know, that song which not only gets featured in every commercial about people falling in love with brand name products, but also took down the GOAT’s (Greatest of All Time, for the nerds) single, “Penny Lane” from the Billboard Hot 100? Yeah, that one. Just saying.
I sat in a cushioned chair, drank, and ate. I would say that constitutes a pretty sweet set up. I know, who the fuck am I anymore? What happened to the dude that bathed in peoples sweat at Day For Night and punched a dude at a Dead Kennedys show (see articles here, here, and here)? He checked out for the night and loved it. It was also stadium style seating so I hardly had to move for jack to see the show. I will say though, something slightly weird about sitting and looking down at St. Vincent play some rather risqué music. I still haven’t been to a burlesque show but this must have been close.
And how about that staff? I enjoyed talking to the chicken guy and elevator dude. Elevator dude and I even managed to talk about Slayer and seamlessly bring up a Simpsons reference. That’s the “I am so smrt” quote from Season 5, episode 3, “Homer Goes to College” (1993) for those of you wondering. Totally nice and stand-out people down at the House of Blues. Also, the walls donned a bunch of amateur art made by a bunch of what I assume to be extremely talented kids or not-so-talented adults. Either way I loved it.
Food and Drink
Texas beer, a Paloma, and seasoned chicken tenders with a side of bbq chips, bbq sauce, and ketchup. Need I say more? Yeah actually I do, about the tenders at least. Now I’m not sure what I expected from the food but the joint decision made between me and an a associate dictated that a little faith be put into the House of Blues kitchen staff. Let’s just say I’m a convert. Not only were the tenders seasoned as advertised, they weren’t over breaded or dry. No, these little suckers boasted some real nice texture and primo moisture. They’ll find their way onto my lap in the future.
Daniel "Rico" Vidales is a musician and educator who has done time in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Houston. He also has a master's degree in musicology that he plans to use at some point. In addition to writing about music, Rico enjoys doing other things with music, podcasting, and arguing about sports.