St. Vincent at O2 Bristol Academy: Thursday 21st August 2014.
The fact that this Thursday night gig is a complete sell-out speaks volumes for the enigmatic Annie Erin Clark – AKA St Vincent. The venue has a real buzz reverberating around its space. People really are waiting with bated-breath, struck with anticipation. I have to say that I am not shocked by this, for the music world really has fallen in love with St Vincent. And why not?
A singer and a songwriter, a multi-instrumentalist, a portrait, a dream-weaver, an avant-garde artist, made of porcelain, adorned with a electric shock of silver hair that would make Einstein himself shudder with envy.
What’s not to love?
The lights are down and from the darkness St Vincent breezes onto stage in ghostly, ethereal fashion. Whilst adjusting her guitar, Clark’s mouth cracks into a wide and almost manic grin.
“I want to give a warm welcome to all the freaks of Bristol. You’re in good company tonight.”
They open the set with ‘Rattlesnake’, the first track from the new album. The electronic buzz of the intro focuses the crowd’s attention. Clark morphs instantly into a deranged robotic china-doll, all jerky hand movements and choreographed artistry. With its heavy post-punk riffs and slithering synth-lines, it’s a great opening to the set. The fact that this song composes through its lyrics the apparently true story of a naked women running in terror from the threat of an intruding rattlesnake, makes it even more fantastic.
The show feels extremely intimate. Between songs Clark addresses the crowd confidently with abstract banter and whatever is on her mind in the moment. She laughs and smiles, and looks like she is enjoying herself, enjoying the gig, enjoying life!
In true theatrical fashion, a fade-to-black follows each song, during which instruments and microphones are swapped and rearranged. Songs such as ‘Digital Witness’, ‘Birth in Reverse’, and ‘Every Tear Disappears’, offer an eclectic array of themes and musical styles, foot-tapping indie pop, open mouthed emotion, unsettling guitar wails and spine-tingling solos. Older songs, such as ‘Cruel’ and ‘Surgeon’, from the 2011 album ‘Strange Mercy’, are absorbed into the set. “They could take you or leave you, so they took you then they left you”, Clark sings in ‘Cruel’, the lyrics create a darker tone as they twist between the strings, woodwinds, and scuzzy guitar chords.
The encore culminates with a moody, thrashing rendition of ‘Your Lips Are Red’. St Vincent works hard to encourage a connection with her crowd, to unleash an inner-demon that blows your mind, leaving you unsure of what you have witnessed but sure enough to recognise greatness. Clark radiates genius.
By Tom Carter