Live Report: St Vincent – Royal Albert Hall, London

A superb, theatrical performance...

It’s been a few weeks since St. Vincent’s, aka Annie Clark, latest album ‘All Born Screaming’ was released to rave reviews. Combining her flair for unconventional pop hooks in earlier work (2009’s ‘Actor’, the self-titled 2015’s ‘St. Vincent’), the electro-sexiness of 2017’s ‘Masseduction’ and the psychedelic, lick-heavy sound of 2021’s ‘Daddy’s Home’; ‘All Born Screaming’ feels like a magnum opus, the most defining and powerful attributes of the Tulsa-born musician wrapped up into a flawless album.  

This sense of roundedness translates into Clark’s live show as well. Set at the gorgeous venue of London’s Royal Albert Hall, Clark opens with ‘Reckless’. A quiet, haunting song — one of the new album’s least-exciting tracks — now takes on an epic sense of glory as Clark’s silhouetted figure looms over the crowd before the drums kick in. ‘Los Ageless’ is a danceable favourite, while the crescendoing chorus’ of ‘Flea’ and ‘Cheerleader’ is an ecstatic, mind-numbing experience. Piano-led pop ballad ‘New York’ brings a respite to the amp-heavy set, allowing Clark to get intimate with fans while inciting mass singalongs. 

There’s also a personable side to Clark’s showmanship that makes the gig ever more captivating.  “We’re all here for love,” beams Clark, as she wades into the audience and hugs members from the pit and the stalls. It’s hard to believe it’s the same woman criticised for her unflinching aloofness during press runs — an artist Clash once slammed for a tame and bandless Brixton Academy set in 2017. But tonight, she’s fully connected to her crowd, and never sounded tighter, backed by a full band that amplifies Clark’s powerful prog-rock riffs to epic proportions, with plenty of ravenous noise interludes that sees Clark writhing on the floor clutching her guitar.

She ends with the new album’s title track, expertly bringing the show to an end with one of those powerful, noise-heavy climaxes, while chanting the chorus. There’s no encore: the music stops suddenly as the stage darkens, and she’s gone. 

It’s timed to perfection — we’re left hungry for more, yet fully satisfied. 

Words: Charis McGowan

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