Annie Clark marches onto the stage as her alter ego and performance name, St. Vincent, with the self assured manner of someone who’s long been in the game.
Taking up her position at the microphone, she strikes a rigid android pose and her four-piece band launches into the crunching synth groove of ‘Rattlesnake’, the opener from her eponymous album of earlier this year (review).
The Merseyside crowd has been milling around for hours for the show, and waning patience now U-turns and heads back towards anticipation. Clark takes a slight pause to acknowledge the eager applause and then goes straight into her standout hit, ‘Digital Witness’ – a parp-heavy stomp that makes allusions about our world of ubiquitous screens: “People turn the TV on it looks just like a window.”
Just two songs in and the crowd’s warming up – the confidence of Clark and her band convincing them that a good show is in store. Two more songs and the audience is in for the ride: a sole detractor who shouts “Shite” is immediately turned on and told, in no uncertain terms, to leave if he’s not on board.
Unrattled by the heckle, Clark straps on her guitar and continues to beam at bandmates and fans alike. She was a tour manager at the age of 12 for her uncle’s band, and she’s toured with The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens, so she’s on more than familiar ground.
Her band are also evidently virtuoso: keyboardist Daniel Mintseris manages to play an intricate melody with one hand while beating out a rhythm on a percussion set; Toko Yasuda sings, adds more synth and plays bass; and drummer Matt Johnson’s simple style belies a forensic precision.
Right up front though, in glorious blasts, is Clark’s killer guitar playing. Seems she has more in common with Prince than just her high-heeled booties and cornrows, as she shreds the shit out of each and every solo.
Between songs she reels off a strange recollection of events that we’ve apparently all shared: “To this day you remember the time when you found a porno mag – you don’t recall much, but Mrs September 1977 will stay with you forever”. Thankfully these random trails don’t detract from the event and most people seem happy to go along with Clark’s slightly unhinged sense of fun.
The pace is slowed midway through as Clark climbs upon a three-piece podium and writhes her way through ‘I Prefer Your Love’, bestowing a greater love than that of Jesus onto a lover, her crystalline voice piercing the quiet that’s descended.
The pace is perfectly managed and the pulse picks up and peaks during a triumphant rendition of ‘Regret’. St. Vincent is somehow a hybrid of Prince, Laurie Anderson and Una Stubbs – and strikingly beautiful for it.
The gig concludes with ‘Chloe In The Afternoon’ from earlier album ‘Strange Mercy’ and ‘Your Lips Are Red’, the one inclusion from the debut album ‘Marry Me’. Technically ferocious with an off-kilter glee, St. Vincent is on seriously good form.
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Words: Nick Rice
Photo: Kate Henderson