Hard to describe this show. The second orchestra show of the week at the Barbican, booked well in advance… it was a pretty special event. I had a front row ticket, and being so close to the stage it felt almost as if you were actually on the stage with the bands; you could sense the giant cavernous space behind you and the hundreds of seated fans eagerly waiting a performance from one of the most hyped bands of the year.
But first, St. Vincent (who, truth be told, I was more excited about). I had seen Annie & co three times previously this year, each time she was brilliant. This time she was playing a strange, stripped down set – just her and violinist Daniel Hart. It was enjoyable as ever, being such a big fan of hers I was perhaps bound to enjoy it. However, I think at times the set drifted off course and was not as exciting and heart racing as I had hoped (her previous shows were truly stunning). She re-arranged the songs and played around with the guitar and vocal effects, with lots of looping.
They opened with Marry Me and Jesus Saves, I Spend. The tempo was slowed down for both, and gone was the fast paced rush of Actor Out Of Work, replaced with a careful, slow plod. It was nice; Annie has a beautiful voice and it’s lovely to hear each word annunciated so carefully and clearly, but I think the audience (particularly those who had not seen her before) would have been more ‘wowed’ by a faster pace, more rockin’ rendition. The duo also played Save Me From What I Want and The Party, both played in a down-tempo way. The looping and effects are brilliant, and when Annie was looping her voice at the end of The Party it really was breathtaking, she has a stunning voice. She also played new song Oh My God (also slow) and ended with What Me Worry? (also slow). Maybe I just was in the mood for a pulsing, fast paced show- which is why Marrow was clearly the set highlight. She kept it fast and exciting, and stayed largely faithful to the recorded version, and it was absolutely brilliant. I perhaps wished she had played songs like Your Lips Are Red, Paris Is Burning or Laughing With A Mouth Of Blood. She didn’t have the dual mic set up that I adore. I enjoyed her set but it was perhaps the mind blowing goodness of the full band shows I had seen a couple of months ago that made this set pale slightly in comparison. It wasn’t bad by far- Annie’s voice is amazing and her guitar skills are excellent, just I was perhaps expecting more. Nonetheless, she is one of my favourite live acts of the year and Actor is one of my favourite records of the year.
Okay, on to Grizzly Bear. They’ve released Veckatimest this year, heralded by many as ‘record of the year’ worthy. I think it’s great but perhaps prefer Yellow House overall, though Two Weeks is undeniably a ridiculously brilliant, amazing song. The London Symphony Orchestra filled the stage, also decorated with jars of hanging light, that brought an eerie beauty to Barbican (fittingly- it was Halloween). They opened with Easier from Yellow House. The sound quality was great and all the parts the orchestra added were great. I enjoyed Two Weeks, played just with the band. There’s not much I feel I can say. It was an enjoyable set, they were very good- but somehow I left feeling underwhelmed. It was missing the ‘fun’ factor and felt very going-through-the motions. Perhaps read this Times Online review- it reflects my reviews exactly in a far more articulate way (the ultimate in lazy reviewing: link to another review). Perhaps high expectations is the key… if you go to a show expecting to have your mind blown disappointment is much easier than when you go to a show with no real hopes.