Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, may not be of this world. She took the stage at the State Theatre in Minneapolis last night with her startling new look—curly white-purple hair; striking green eyeshadow; tall heels; and bouncing shoulder-pads. Her wide eyes felt too knowing to be human; her rigid, cryptic motions appeared to have been learned from alien hieroglyphs; and her guitar-shredding skills were certainly not terrestrial.
Despite her otherworldliness, Clark connected with her audience by pausing between songs to list things she had in common with them. “When you look at your limbs, you cannot help but think that at one time they must have belonged to a robot,” she mused in a calm, curious cadence. “And sometimes, when you walk around your neighborhood without your glasses on, you superimpose the faces of celebrities on everyone you walk past. That way, everyone you see looks like Prince.” There were certainly elements of The Purple One in her stage presence—enigmatic, energetic, and mysteriously sexy.
St. Vincent did not tire or falter during her two-hour, 20-song set, flowing seamlessly from one song to the next, never once blinking when it wasn’t planned. She played nearly every song from this year’s self-titled release, and though Clark and her band could clearly execute each song exactly as it was recorded, they sprinkled in playful variations, including instrumental solos and some wild low-frequency vocal distortion.
Equally as sharp and energetic were the highlights from 2011’s Strange Mercy, and a few pleasant surprises emerged from 2007’s Marry Me and 2009’s Actor including “Your Lips Are Red,” “Laughing with a Mouthful of Blood,” and the bone-jostling “Marrow,” for which Clark asked the audience to stand and/or dance in the aisles. “Maybe if you feel it,” she urged, “security won’t throw you out.” The audience, whether seated or standing in the aisles, was enthralled. During the slower moments, the venue fell entirely silent as everyone focused on Clark and her guitar. As her wide eyes roved the audience she made eye contact: “meeting you all one by one.”
The State Theatre, in its decadence, was an ideal venue for a show that was as riveting visually as sonically; at times, entering the realm of performance art. At the center of the spectacle was a large pink podium on which Clark sang, climbed, laid down, and rolled. The musical finesse on display was just as impressive, especially given the carefully composed electronic soundscapes that constitute the new St. Vincent album.
Continuously throughout the show, parts that I’d assumed to be constructed on a computer howled out of Clark’s guitar, proving over and over again that Clark’s shredding skills were to be reckoned with. Moments like the end of opener “Rattlesnake,” or the breakdown halfway through “Huey Newton,” filled the space with funky, raucous noise.
Synthesizing a wide array of influences, Clark created a pleasant combination of wildly experimental guitar—like the opener, Brooklyn-based guitar player Noveller, who set the stage with slow, droning loops and layers—and rocking out. There was potential for things to get too weird, for the act to alienate the audience with its experimental nature, but Clark rode that line perfectly, presenting an immensely intriguing, artful, and energetic show. The result was something undeniably unique.
With a stage presence that is impossible to look away from and music that can fill the body and mind, St. Vincent has most definitely hit her stride.
Luke Muyskens attends St. John’s University. He previously wrote for aboveGround Magazine and UGSMAG.