Friday, May 25, 2012

You As You Were

Even during birthday week, a person has to do more than just open cards and presents.

Realistically, they have to go to shows, too.

Tonight's was an especially good one; Shearwater was opening for St. Vincent at the National.

In keeping with the theme, my ticket was a gift, too.

After a birthday laugh with the wristband guy, I walked in to take my place in front of the sound booth to find a friend already standing there.

Instant company.

Within two minutes, Shearwater took the stage and although I'd never seen them before, I already knew I loved the singer's voice.

He was a former member of Okkervil River, a band I've seen twice, and his beautiful voice is swoon-worthy if you ask me.

Saying, "This is the first time we've played Richmond. I don't know why it took so long," the band took off with a rollicking set that quieted the good-sized crowd.

Yes, the music's dense, but it's smart pop, full of hooks and then there's that voice (see: "You As You Were," with its positively driving rhythm and just the kind of intensity I can't resist).

"Who are you?" an audience member called out mid-set, apparently realizing that this band was very good.

"We're Shearwater from Austin," Jonathan clarified.

Hopefully by the time they got to "Breaking the Ice," the uninformed were converts and the band finished with "White Wave" to end their too-short set.

During the break I saw a few people I knew, all guys making their way to the front by the stage.

St. Vincent's set began with Annie's halo of curls back-lit before her screaming guitar reminded us that big eyes and curly hair aside, this is a musician to be reckoned with.

She referred to "Dilettante" as a "love letter to New York City with hate mail mixed in."

Because as we all know, it's a thin line between love and hate.

Annie was chatty, saying, "Ten years ago we played the Nancy Raygun. Be glad you weren't there. I'm glad it was the pre-Youtube, pre-cell phone camera days. Then we also played a gutter punk squat and you should be really glad you weren't there."

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the latter show happened in Jackson Ward ten years ago. Ah, Annie, we hardly knew you then.

Whatever level to which they played way back when has long since been replaced by a tight foursome with Annie playing her guitar fiercely with the band supplying drums, keyboards and mini-Moog.

Oh, yes, and an audience of adoring men consuming her with their eyes.

Sensitive-looking guys, burly types, really just about all of the males in the crowd  seemed awed by the woman singing "Cruel" and "Cheerleader" and destroying guitar strings during the last night of the band's North American tour.

Endearingly, she even mocked her own between-song banter, likening herself to a bad stand-up comedian.

Mentioning the post-punk band Pop Group because of having covered one of their songs, she said the lead singer had given her a pot scrubber designed to look like Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols.

Sadly, it was labeled "Sid Dishes."

"This is what's become of punk," the singer told her.

Kind of breaks your heart, doesn't it?

At least there are females out there still making lots of noise with their guitars while wearing shorts and tights.

And as if the crowd wasn't already in love with Annie and her shredding, for the band's last song she surely made strong men swoon when she threw herself off the lip of the stage, mic still in hand, to crowd surf a few times.

Wisely always offering herself back first, she was gently passed around and delicately returned to the stage not long after to say goodnight.

There was a long wait and much clapping for the band to return; it felt like a true encore and not just a formality.

When it began to take a while, the crowd began chanting, "Annie! Annie!" until the curly-headed one reappeared for "Your Lips are Red."

The male worshiping factor surely came to a head at that point and I wouldn't be surprised if some guys had to go smoke a cigarette afterwards.

Being  a woman, I was able to take it a bit more in stride.

Come on, guys, it was just the superb show part of my birthday week.

So while they're cooling off, I'm back to opening birthday presents now.

Of note was the card that came with the well-chosen bottles of wine I was given.

"I figured since May, the entire month of May, is for you, you should enjoy it with some adult beverages! Have a happy month and play hard and love hard. Well, not too hard!"

No harder than Annie shreds. How's that for a worthy goal?

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