The warped world of St. Vincent is a weird yet wonderful clash of the art and music realms, and it’s creator, Annie Clark, can be held responsible for the turning of pop culture completely on its head. From deconstructing the male-dominated music industry by designing a line of guitars fit for the female anatomy, to directing a dark, Lynch-like horror film short that showcases her perverted yet relatable sense of humour. Without even scratching the surface of her musical endeavours, St. Vincent has become is nothing short of an icon, as the queue of people snaked around Leeds O2 Academy for her headline show demonstrated.
What an artist is wearing on stage is normally irrelevant, but as a member of her entourage led her by hand onto a platform stage, St Vincent presented herself in thigh high, heeled boots and a latex dress. Making it clear that not only is this costume choice part of her art-neveaux performance, it also serves as a microcosm for the domination that was about to take place of anyone that bore witness to her spectacle.
Image courtesy of Unholy Racket.
Shimmering 80s-inspired synth sounds shone out alongside synonymous light sequences from the impressive array of bulbs behind her, as she signalled the start of her set with anthem, ‘Sugarboy’. Lights dim while the audience show their appreciation in raucous applause, while an unnamed costumed figure swapped out one of her custom guitars for another; a frequent feature of the night which saw a lineup of different coloured but equally impressive instruments displayed and played magnificently.
As Clark stormed through a set consisting mostly of tracks from her 2017 release Masseduction, not a note faltered, and the full range of her vocal talents was presented to a live audience alongside her incredible skills on guitar - skills which may not be given the full attention they deserve on her records. Her performance as a whole is unlike any other live act, there’s no pause for a drink of water, no moving her hair from her face, in fact all movement aside from her expert guitar playing was somewhat robotic, displaying an almost inhuman level of precision and perfection from the musician.
Her entire mannequin-like stage presence was clearly a calculated and curated intention to create a certain demeanor. This not only matched the artistic production - which featured intriguing and surreal videos played on a screen starring St. Vincent herself acting as different characters and caricatures - but also matched up with her unique sound. Not shying from her socio-political commentary though, as she showcases her emotive views through the passion of performance, raising her fists periodically throughout single ‘Masseduction’.
Image courtesy of Unholy Racket.
A completely bold and brash approach to live music, St. Vincent remains distant from her audience for the majority of her set, setting the boundaries of her, the performer and them, the spectators. Yet there’s moments of her humanness and personality that manage to seep through. Clark showed a real sense of genuinity whenever she thanked Leeds for hosting her, she makes a comment about how special it is that we all exist, and all exist together for this hour and half. She also connects directly with fans during their choral collective singing of ‘Fast Slow Disco’, who she dedicates to “boys, girls and all gender non-conformists”.
Following this, she continued this intimate feel as she stepped off the platform towards the audience, receiving a gift from one member and proceeding to give an acapella verse of ‘New York’, leading the crowd into another choral rendition before she started over with her accompanying band. An encore of ‘Smoking Section’, ‘Happy Birthday, Johnny’ and a stripped back and completely solo performance of ‘Prince Johnny’ concluded the evening, showing both the theatrical side of the artist sans a grand finale typical of theatre productions of this scale.
Main image courtesy of Unholy Racket.
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