Annie Clark, Inspiring Love and (Unsaintly) Devotion

Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent, stirred the hearts of listeners at the Rock & Roll Hotel.
Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent, stirred the hearts of listeners at the Rock & Roll Hotel. (By Tod Seelie)
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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Some guy screamed "I love you" to Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent, midway through her Tuesday concert at a jampacked Rock & Roll Hotel.

It's easy to understand why the dude's hormones were all a-fuss: Clark is a fetching indie chanteuse with a lovely head of curly black hair and a ballad-heavy catalogue of songs from (and about) the heart.

And the males in attendance weren't done hitting on her: When she sang "I want to marry you," another one of her suitors yelled, "Yeah, I do!"

She brushed off both advances with a ready smile, as such shouts d'amore must be commonplace for Clark (after all, her Web site is called Ilovestvincent).

But even if Clark looked like an old shoe, her music would be swoon-worthy, as her airy voice evokes such disparate sources as Edith Piaf and Bjork.

A former guitarist with indie-rock faves the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens, Clark is an able ax woman. But her most valuable skill is the way she arranges her pop songs like mini-symphonies. On her debut CD, "Marry Me," the overdubs are layered like a Dagwood sandwich whipped up in Brian Wilson's studio; live, however, Clark was backed by just three musicians. Still, the group managed to sound lush, from the full vocal-chorus effect of "Now, Now" to the throaty "bum-bum-bums" that propel the recorded version of "Jesus Saves, I Spend."

Of course, the quartet couldn't drown out the courters, but even the National Symphony would have been hard-pressed to muffle the affection for St. Vincent.

-- Christopher Porter

© 2008 The Washington Post Company