When Annie Clark appeared on stage for her sold-out show at The Vic on May 11, the desire in the air was palpable. A delicate vision in black (recalling a grown-up form of Winona Ryder’s dark teenager in Beetlejuice), her very presence made the air buzz with lust and laser-like anticipation. However, the St. Vincent songstress immediately proved herself worthy of this animal magnetism by churning out a two-hour set of exhilaratingly raw viscera: a gut-kicking, vein-surging, and heart-pounding musical implosion.
Clark’s stage persona (looking like an angel, thrashing like a devil) was dependably on-point—whipping her fans into a feeding frenzy with every razor-sharp lick of her guitar. Accompanied by an intoxicating mélange of drums, keyboards, and synth, her warped-Disney-soundtrack tunes were as deliberately chaotic as ever. The simple setup of her four-piece band both amplified and contained her sound, allowing her solo strings to take on a life of their own. Never wavering in energy or allure, she sizzled her way through hit after hit from her two most recent albums: 2009’s Actor and 2011’s Strange Mercy.
A more subdued version of St. Vincent’s manic concert-staple “Marrow” began the night on an atypical note, and the surprises didn’t stop there. Clark remained uncommonly still for the first few songs of her set (which included the eerie anthem “Cheerleader” and the twisted fantasy mind-trip “Chloe in the Afternoon”) before turning flicks of her fingers into full-body spasms of near-hysterical intensity. Scooting around in her heels like a wind-up doll gone beserk, Clark jammed her electric guitar directly into the synthesizer for “Dilettante” and pitched head first into fuzzy, dirty meltdowns on almost every other song to follow. Occasionally, an F-bomb would escape her lips—and the crowd would roar their approval.
Perhaps the fanatic adoration of Clark is a result of her uncanny ability to play with opposites. She addressed the audience at several points throughout her set, relating personal anecdotes in an unexpectedly sweet and airy speaking voice.
One of the stories she shared was about a gift that Mark Stewart (lead singer of Brit band The Pop Group) gave her at a show in London: a Sid Vicious dish scrubber called Sid Dishes. “He said: ‘Ugh, this is what’s become of punk,’” she quipped, before launching into an aggressive cover of The Pop Group’s “She’s Beyond Good and Evil” that made most of today’s post-punkers look like pansies in comparison.
However, the biggest shocker of the night occurred during the finale. As the opening strains of Record Store Day-exclusive single “Krokodil” gnashed and blared from the speakers, Clark hopped off the stage and onto the shoulders of her security guard. Then, in a daring move of impressive physical prowess, she catapulted herself into the arms of her totally unsuspecting audience—and the entire venue erupted with the kind of borderline insanity that can only come from holding aloft your favorite crowd-surfing rock star. Clark spent the entire song wailing into her microphone and wriggling atop her adoring fans like an addict going through withdrawal, and made it back to the stage by the final chorus without missing a single note.
The encore of “Your Lips Are Red” was a lovely goodbye—and came much too soon. Earlier in the evening, Clark talked about her inspiration behind the song “Northern Lights”: a man who saw the sky light up in Alaska and thought it was the end of times. “But it wasn’t…and that was good news!” she declared with a smile and self-deprecating laugh, “Full of silver linings tonight, everyone.” If Clark’s St. Vincent is the silver lining for generic indie rock, then Friday night’s show was an electric storm: startling, thrilling, and absolutely unforgettable.
See exclusive photos of St. Vincent at The Vic Theatre here.
- “Chloe in the Afternoon”
- “Save Me From What I Want”
- “Actor Out of Work”
- “Black Rainbow”
- “Champagne Year”
- “Neutered Fruit”
- “Northern Lights”
- “Year of the Tiger”
- “She is Beyond Good and Evil” (The Pop Group cover)
- “Your Lips Are Red”