Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)
When you start to attend gigs with any kind of regularity, you start to encounter moments when, no matter how much you might like the band, you can’t help wishing you were listening to this on your headphones at home. I might not be completely allergic to sincerity, but there are only so many “soulful” and “stripped-back” sets I can deal with. Which is why I am delighted by St Vincent’s carefully choreographed appearance on stage. Scuttling across the stage like a short-circuited Stepford wife, front-woman Annie Clark embodies a sense of manic, joyful alienation.
Her latest and eponymous album deals with issues of identity in relation to technology, as evident in the lyrics to “Digital Witness” (“Digital witness/ what’s the point of even sleeping?/ If I can’t show it, if you can’t see me/ what’s the point of doing anything?”). Whereas in previous albums her angular guitar-playing worked as a brutal counterpoint to the prettiness of her voice and lush backing tracks (see “Cruel”), her newer material shifts the emphasis. Relying much more heavily on cold synth sounds, St Vincent sees the guitar transform into an expression of rebellion against the rigid structure imposed by digital music.
It should be no surprise, given the effort Annie and her backing band have made in coming up with choreographed routines, that the performance is beautifully precise (minus a few front-of-house issues towards the end of the set). You begin to truly believe that Annie must have some cybernetic implants when you consider how she manages to sing, play intricate guitar lines and dance in high heels flawlessly and contemporaneously.
Though the set consists mainly of material from the latest album, there is enough diversity within those songs to maintain rapt attention. The manic angularity of “Born in Reverse” gives way to “Huey Newton”, which sounds almost like a Dr. Dre track. On a couple of occasions Annie pauses to recite little monologues which are witty enough not to sound too cutesy. These too are obviously rehearsed, but if one is searching for spontaneity and sincerity, it is enough to see her expression of delight at the close of the set. The effort and talent on display are a sure testament to the dedication St Vincent has for her audience.