A great season of free concerts is under way in Chicago, including a number of noteworthy shows in the beautiful Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. St. Vincent (a.k.a. singer-songwriter Annie Clark) performed last night (June 8) beneath architect Frank Gehry’s curving metallic folds, with an appreciative audience and the Chicago skyline spread out before her. Looking out at that tableau, the wide-eyed Clark marveled, “Look at this place. It’s ridiculous!”
St. Vincent was ridiculously great, too. I saw her play three decent shows as an opening act when she was touring to support her first album, but her second record, Actor, is quite a step up from that first effort. It could end up being one of 2009’s best CDs. The intimate show she played this spring at the Hideout was so cool, but it was nice to see her playing this time with a full complement of backing musicians. At one point, not one but two of the musicians were playing clarinet!
Although she did play some music from her first album, opening with the title track, “Marry Me,” St. Vincent focused on the new stuff last night. The songs sounded lush, almost orchestral, with St. Vincent’s lovely voice floating through the dense arrangements, delivering literate lyrics that showed a sharp sense of humor as well as some occasional dark thoughts. But the music never stayed in one pretty place for long — St. Vincent let loose with noisy, angular electric-guitar solos on many of her songs. The noise was beautiful, too.
The opening act, Chicago band Allá, was a good match for St. Vincent, playing some long psychedelic and minimalist jams. It’s nice to see Millennium Park featuring some local bands on its schedule. Just hang out this summer at the park and you’ll hear a ton of great music of all sorts. Check out the schedule at www.millenniumpark.org. One can’t-miss show is the Feelies on June 29.