I am a champ. Last night I managed to see both The Antlers at The Warfield and St. Vincent at The Great American Music Hall (GAMH). Timing was everything. Leaving during The Antler’s last song, I made it within a minute of St. Vincent’s performance. My legs are now sore from the seven blocks that I “power walked,” though most likely people thought I was a scared white kid running through the Tenderloin. My diet of music blogs, PBRs, and attending shows does not prepare well for huffin’ and puffin’ down O’Farrel street.
The Antlers (interview found here) were opening for The Editors at the Warfield, one of the larger venues in San Francisco. The venue was empty, which meant the balcony, usually reserved for VIP, was open to the public. Sweet. The Antler’s album, Hospice is heavily textured, layered with ambient noises that would be difficult to reproduce. Since the album’s release, the band’s arrangement has also shrunk. Tonight wasn’t just about seeing one of 2009’s biggest surprises, it was witnessing the not-so-straight-forward recreation live.
Maybe it was the pressure of a thirty minute set, the length of each track on Hospice (five minutes or more), the anxiety of lulling the audience to sleep, whatever the reason truly was, the tempo of every song was hastened. This was bad. On the album, Silberman’s voice is subdued under a sea of noise yet his lyrics are clear to the focused listener. Live, his voice was drowned beneath the banging bass kicks and ambient noises. It was not his range, because as he reached the hooks or the “crescendos” in verses his voice was completely audible.
On “Bear” as Siblerman sung “We’re too old, were not old at all,” the drum strong armed the vocals. The song was lopsided until the end as Silberman hit high falsetto notes regaining center ground. The dynamics weren’t always bad, helping songs like “Kettering.” The contrasts of minimalist verses were emphasized as Silberman raised his guitar high, slashing it down as the crashing cymbal punctuated the hammering. It should be noted, the audio difficulties might be the fault of the sound guy or due this being the group’s first performance with The Editors.
While I wasn’t disappointed by The Antler’s set, I was ready and eager to see St. Vincent (interview found here). The GAMH was sold-out. The lively crowd could not get enough of Annie Clark, hooting, hollering, and stomping on the ground in applause between tracks. Playing mostly from Actor, the group also played “Jesus Saves, I Spend,” and a thrillingly dark encore of “My Lips Are Red.” Reaffirming what I already knew, St. Vincent is one of the best live shows. While The Antlers struggled to reproduced their album, St. Vincent improved upon their recordings inserting alternate chord progressions, and different instrumental arrangements.
Midway through their set, Annie Clark stood alone on the stage solely illuminated. She had a tradition she had to uphold since the last time she performed at the GAMH. She wanted to say what she had seen earlier that day. The last time she performed, she told of a “gentlemen” who picked his scabs before eating them. This time she spotted a man urinating on a tree in broad day light. Clark smiled, and remarked something like “Oh San Francisco.” “In response a member of the audience replied “I went to the bathroom this time!” Whether this was uniquely San Francisco, a description of any major city or simply a facet of the Tenderloin, who knows. One thing I do know, see St. Vincent if you ever get the chance.