The inimitable St. Vincent helped bring the annual Vivid Festival to an end in Sydney last night, with a special one-off solo show that felt as much an art installation as it did a rock concert.
Curtains moved and fell, as though the chronological trip through her catalogue was emblematic of how she’s shown us more and more of herself as her career has progressed. Screens eventually emerged at the back of the stage, as the visual element became as much a part of the show as the music did itself, with Clark playing through her new record MASSEDUCTION in its entirety; fitting given the opening act was a short film (The Birthday Party) that she directed. Even as a one woman show she managed to make it theatrical, moving between microphones, having guitar ninjas come and replace her tech, as the backdrop morphed, all moulding together for a spectacular feast of aural and visual splendour.
Early moments saw the songstress bathed in flashing lights and a bright backdrop – against the strong colours of her own outfit and guitars – as she travelled through her backcatalogue with songs like “Marry Me”, which opened the set, “Cheerleader”, Strange Mercy”, “Digital Witness” and “Birth in Reverse”, which ended the 10 song retrospective, before she played her new album in its entirety (a nice flip on the norm there).
Now, with a costume change and the projections behind her, we saw a different show entirely. Take “Young Lover” for instance, which saw us travel at light speed through the stars in the accompanying graphics, as Clark shredded on the guitar. Then there was the mouthwatering jam of “Sugarboy” that brought the crowd to its knees (more shredding, naturally). “Pills” and “New York” proved favourites, and “Smoking Section” naturally closed out the night, as it did the record.
Annie Clark is one of the finest performers on the planet for a reason, because she treats her music live as just that: a performance. Sliding effortlessly through her backcatalogue, hitting one of her biggest tracks “Cheerleader” early on, her back to part of the crowd, gradually moving her way around until she was centre again and the backing visual element was added to the production – all amongst a costume change and a whole heap of guitars at her disposal (I think I counted 8!?), it all made it a hypnotising experience.
While the show didn’t quite live up to the experience that accompanied her 2015 self-titled LP, which she toured locally with Laneway, the fact that she was able to bring a solo enterprise to these heights – while showcasing the brilliance of her latest record – is a testament to her status as one of the finest artists in the world. But without that “epic” experience to distract, some more audience interaction would have been nice, and it’s impossible to argue the backing track didn’t at times take away from her guitar skills (likely a personal prejudice more than anything). But these are minor complaints on what was an spectacular show, and what will probably be the only time we ever get to witness MASSEDUCTION from start to finish by the force of nature herself. With a solid dose of mind-bending guitar shredding added in for good measure.
PART ONE: BACKCATALOGUE
Actor Out of Work
Birth in Reverse
PART TWO: MASSEDUCTION
Hang on Me
Happy Birthday, Johnny
Fear the Future
Dancing With a Ghost
St Vincent played at Carraigeworks in Sydney on 17th June 2018 as part of Vivid Festival.