Reviewed on Sunday May 26 (image by Prudence Upton)
One of the thrills of being an obsessive music listener is challenging yourself to ‘pick the influence’. With some acts, the forebears can be obviously pinpointed. When it comes to artful American songwriter Annie Clark (AKA St. Vincent), it’s not so easy. She merges styles and shades from a broad span of both exoteric and esoteric art, meaning the influences her fans perceive are scattered, depending on subjective experience.
Tonight’s Vivid LIVE performance showed signs of David Bowie’s commitment to visual presentation, Nine Inch Nails’ industrial guitar toggling, Annie Lennox’s perfectly alien pop and past collaborator David Byrne’s duality of art school know-how and daring unconventionality. Meanwhile, the highly choreographed performance took cues from surrealist mimicry and modern dance artist Pina Bausch.
Of course, not everyone’s likely to agree, but just the fact these artists come to mind underlines that St. Vincent’s live show is something special.
One of this evening’s unique distinctions was how Clark applied portions of staggering guitar wizardry, pre-meditated dance moves (in which her band members also partook) and spotlighted vocal brilliance without ever missing the point. These spectacle-stealing elements aren’t statements in and of themselves. Rather, they were all in league to provide a relatively unpredictable and preeminently entertaining rock show. Much like the aforementioned icons, Clark mightn’t comply with prevailing formula, but she’s comfortably aware of pleasing the listener.
The setlist was largely drawn from this year’s self-titled LP and its complementary predecessor, Strange Mercy. Acrobatic opener ‘Rattlesnake’ set a high standard, which Clark and her three efficient onstage companions didn’t struggle to uphold for the next hour and a half.
A particular highlight was the encore’s solo rendition of ‘Strange Mercy’. Generally speaking, the amount of guile in Clark’s songs and her assuredly quirky onstage persona rendered the gig somewhat emotionally impenetrable. But ‘Strange Mercy’ conveyed a relatable intimacy that made you feel like a part of St. Vincent’s world.
Elsewhere, the performance’s unblinking lack of flab was almost frightening. And altogether bedazzling.