Annie Clark may not be godly but when she performs as St. Vincent she is like something out of this world. The Manhattan native made her Sydney Opera House debut for Vivid Festival and received a standing ovation. She had shown us all why 2014 has been her year thanks to a mesmerizing, theatrical show that will go down in the books as a truly special one.
The set list was predominantly made up of songs from her recent, eponymous album. The opening, ‘Rattlesnake’ saw a crazy rhythm combined with an indie pop groove while ‘Birth In Reverse’ was one of the best songs of the evening. It saw a gnarly crunch coupled with a danceable buzz.
The strong songstress also belted out some mean, electric guitar solos whilst striking her best rock star poses. Dressed in head-to-toe black and with a shock of thick, white grey hair, in the shadows she looked like The Cure’s Robert Smith while at her more mischievous and playful moments she resembled Prince.
She cracked jokes, gave a special welcome to the freaks, the others and the weirdos in attendance and told “stories” from her childhood. The latter included wanting to fly, producing fires with a magnifying glass and imagining that famous people’s faces were superimposed on the bodies of the local homeless and elderly people (yes, Clark does have one vivid imagination!)
St. Vincent isn’t just an artist with a swag full of musical chops. She also created different moods for each song, which at times seemed more like a performance art show at a modern museum then your standard gig.
There was some syncopated guitar rocking during ‘Birth In Reverse’; some twinkle toes in ‘Surgeon’; a laidback and casual air in ‘I Prefer Your Love’; and some raw, writhing in ‘Bring Me Your Loves’.
St. Vincent has previously collaborated with former Talking Heads member, David Byrne. He said that after almost a year of touring he still didn’t know her any better. As an audience member one can’t help but feel the same and also imagine that Clark is actually giving away a little piece of herself at every show, such is the visceral, incendiary and evocative moods she created live and feelings that are far more intense than the recorded form.
‘Prince Johnny’ was so tender, sad and operatic. St. Vincent stripped away at every layer in her cries and ended the song looking like a crucified woman. It was a very different feeling to the old song, “Strange Mercy”, where Clark performed solo and left little pockets of air to punctuate the piece.
It is difficult to pigeonhole such a tough chameleon like St. Vincent (especially when you consider her other work with The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens). It would also be a massive disservice to think you could fully capture the crazed magic and colourful sorcery of her guitar hooks, electronic bleeps and amazing songs in a single review.
In short, St. Vincent’s Opera House debut was stunning. Her recent record translated wonderfully to the live stage and featured intense and heavenly art rock painted with the finest brush to reveal an awe-inspiring palate of Technicolor.