Review: St. Vincent reigns supreme and adds edge to second day of Boston Calling Music Festival

The second day of Boston Calling had the biggest headliners, and a solid late afternoon run on the Red and Green stages. The Pod Saves America podcast was a good idea until the line ended up going out the door and around the corner, but Manchester Orchestra on the Green stage was a good enough alternative.

They attracted a good crowd of people, and they delivered a solid set which set the mood for Royal Blood who played straight after on the Red stage. “Out of the Black” was the highlight of a set that wasn’t up to their usual standard, but I’ll let it go since, after landing heavily from a jump, lead singer Mike Kerr said he needed a tequila because he thought he’d broken his foot.

St. Vincent was next, and had a lot of side of stage support. I spotted comedian Cameron Esposito, and someone who looked suspiciously like David Byrne.

The band played a lot from the 2017 masterpiece MASSEDUCTION, and opened strong with “Sugarboys”. Annie Clark strutted around the stage as she played a red guitar and it was hard to know where to look – at her, the other members of the band, or the images of Clark with her face painted and in costume being projected on the screen.

“Los Ageless”, an ode to Los Angeles sounded just as scathing live as it does on the album, and this was an early standout. The production that went into “Pills” was too intricate for that big a space, and the mix was slightly off, which made it hard to hear properly. Clark’s dance moves were the best part of the song.

(Photo: Brian Easakoff for Boston Calling)

Clark appealed to the Boston locals by replacing references to New York with Boston in her intro, but went back to the (better) original version when she started to play “New York”. “Savior” and “Masseduction” were played in quick succession, and the band rounded out the set with some older tracks including “Digital Witness”, and a more electronic, sped up version of “Slow Disco”.

St. Vincent – placed right in the middle of a run of male rock bands – added an edge to the day and showed that Clark is currently one of the best performers around.

Queens of the Stone Age swaggered on stage and got right into Songs for the Deaf‘s opener “…Millionaire”, and jumped straight into “No One Knows”. The sound was not loud enough to really bring the crowd in, but improved after “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” and “The Way You Used to Do”.

It all clicked during “Smooth Sailing”, which got everyone dancing and singing “I blow my load over the status quo,” and the momentum carried into surprise addition “In My Head”,. The band tend to stay away from Lullabies to Paralyze, with the exception of “Little Sister”, so this was a nice change.

(Photo: Mike Diskin for Boston Calling)

Josh Homme put the call out for someone to accompany him on the ferris wheel, and had about a thousand willing participants to choose from before they played the crowd pleasing, albeit dull “Make it Wit Chu”. I’m grateful for this song when they play it, since it gives me a chance to take a second to take pictures, but it’s been 10 years now, and the band have evolved past this song. Its addition puts a downer in an otherwise frantic, frenzied set, and it could be dropped (don’t @ me).

My notes after this point simply read “Fucking insane, best of the day,” and this is the truth. “Sick Sick Sick” picked up what “Make it Wit Chu” dropped, the “I Sat By The Ocean” bluesy riffs were sexy as hell, and “Domesticated Animals” has reached the point of perfection live.

The usual combination of “Go With The Flow” and “A Song for the Dead” closed the set, and there were points in both where I thought my arm would fall off from punching the air so hard.

Before they left the stage, Josh Homme told us all to watch Jack White on the Green stage, and we all obliged. White started his show by appearing on the screen next to a countdown clock, that then showed him walking to the stage.

From the moment they played “Over and Over and Over”, the band were on, Jack White’s voice and guitar were electric (except for when he went acoustic for “Hotel Yorba”). Hearing old White Stripes songs such as “Hello Operator”, “Black Math”, “The Hardest Button to Button”, “Little Bird” and “I’m Slowly Turning Into You” fitted out with a full band instead of the two instrument combo we hear on their albums always floors me, and makes me grateful I’m still able to see these songs performed live even though the band have broken up.

(Photo: Ty Johnson for Boston Calling)

White played a lot of new tracks from latest album Border House Reach, which were on the whole received well by the crowd. The “Corporation” call out “Who’s with me?!” got everyone involved, but “Why Walk a Dog?” played in the middle of a 10 song encore did not. White would have done better if he had played straight through the encore. There didn’t seem to be any real reason to leave the stage for five minutes, instead of pure theatrics, and it lost some of the momentum he managed to build, especially since they left the stage after literal banger “The Hardest Button to Button.”

The rest of the encore featured “Sixteen Saltines” and “Blunderbuss”, “Black Bat Licorice” from Lazaretto, and “Ball and Biscuit”.

No Jack White festival set would be complete without “Seven Nation Army”, and it sparked the politest mosh pit I’ve ever seen, along with a huge singalong with that famous riff. As the band walked off stage, Jack White yelled, “Get on the internet and spread positivity! Don’t spread hate! Spread positivity! Who’s with me?”

My second day at Boston Calling could be summed up by something I overheard a stranger say on my way out: “I just found myself smiling with my mouth open the entire time!”

Same dude, same.

Photo of St. Vincent: Mike Diskin for Boston Calling.

The reviewer attended this event on May 26th. Stay tuned for our final night review from Boston Calling!