Attending a St. Vincent concert is different than an average night out seeing your favorite band. A performance from this artist is just that, a performance. Last night’s sold-out show at Union Transfer was a mix of music, interpretative dance, and wordplay. The brilliant and divine Annie Clark put together a stunning array of entertainment, delving into a 20-song set list and giving the audience a taste of her creative and gleaming magnetism.
Her fourth studio album, the self titled St. Vincent, released on Loma Vista and Republic Records, “does not sound like it was recorded here on Earth” says Pitchfork. Her baroque pop and art rock styles were brought to the immediate surface with this album, touching the playful and intriguing style of her music and singular personality on display during her performance last night.
The eager crowd cheered and bounced when Annie Clark came out onto the stage, radiating mysterious beauty with her David Bowie inspired white / purple hair, wearing a white gown with a blood-red smear front. Her pale complexion and dark blue eye shadow just seem to work. Seeing her standing in front of you almost feels like staring at a piece of artwork, or watching an animated character. She opened the show with the first song off the new album, “Rattlesnake” which she has said was inspired by a nude stroll in the woods where she was nearly bit by a rattlesnake. The upbeat techno backing matched Clark’s robotic dance moves perfectly. She shook her shoulders and opened her eyes wide, moving each of her limbs one by one and shuffling her feet across the stage.
She moved into “Digital Witness”, the first single from the new album. The song talks about the changes in a modern digital age: “people turn the TV on / it looks just like a window.” The song encapsulates the way people look at the world today through such a digital lens, which she discussed when she appeared on the Colbert Report earlier this past week.
The doe-eyed Clark looked at the audience during every “Yeah” of the song and before going into Strange Mercy’s “Cruel” next and speaking out to the audience for the first time. “I feel like we go way back”, she said. “You were all born before the 21st century.” She continued to discuss childhood, and it was a moment before the crowd actually realized she was giving a rehearsed monologue to introduce “Birth in Reverse,” the second single off the new album.
Later she hurtled back to 2008’s Actor playing, “Laughing with a Mouth Full of Blood” while her bandmates coo’d the background vcals. For a while, everyone was wondering what the “white tier’d cake looking thing” on the stage was going to be for, and as she sang the sweet and romantic “I Prefer Your Love” she sat gracefully on the first level of the tier, lying back and singing into the microphone. She looked like she was laying on a couch talking about a current lover, looking up when she said “I prefer your love to Jesus”.
Her second monologue followed, “Your family doesn’t know everything about you. Your friends call you ‘Peaches’ for some reason you can’t remember….” and she continued into a darker tone, “You sit on the bus and look around thinking, ‘We’re all going to die.’”
During the popular single “Cheerleader”, Clark stood on the very top of the tier’d cake shouting “I don’t wanna be a cheerleader no more” like she was giving a PSA to the audience. With a stellar light show, switching from monster lighting coming from below to epileptic flashes to a deep spotlight that creates a giant shadow behind her, making her appear as a larger version of herself.
“Prince Johnny”, a slow and steady ballad quickly turned into a strange episode, as she handed her guitar off and then laid on her front-side, slowly slipping and sliding down each tier until she proceeded to lay upside until the song was complete.
“My friends, it’s been a pleasure, a total pleasure” said Clark while she began to tell a story about going to the garage and creating a throne out of aluminum foil, PBR cans, and a thrift store T-shirt. Her choreographed dance moves and rehearsed speeches did not take away from the raw and intense stage presence that she emulates. In fact, it enhanced her ruthless showmanship.
Who really knows where these wordy monologues are originated from, other than the deep caves of Annie Clark’s intuitive mind. She ended her hour and a half long performance by returning in a black space-y looking futuristic jacket, and singing “Strange Mercy” solo and solemn, just her and her electric guitar.
She introduced her band mates and completed the evening with “Your Lips Are Red” off her 2007 album Marry Me. She took a final bow and walked off stage, almost like she was never real at all.
St. Vincent | photo by Rachel Del Sordo