St. Vincent at Iveagh Gardens – Review
Still in tireless support of her 2014 Grammy-winning eponymous album, on a tour that began in Berlin 18 months ago, Annie Clark aka St. Vincent has visited every corner of the globe, collaborated with amongst others Swans and The Chemical Brothers, played with the remaining members of Nirvana and appeared on Portlandia. This relentless trajectory continues at breakneck pace as she returns to these shores for three dates, beginning in the leafy confines of Dublin’s Iveagh Gardens.
A healthy if not sold out crowd are enjoying a humid evening in the capital as she arrives onstage fashionably late, strapping her guitar on and effortlessly opening with ‘Birth In Reverse’. She looks amazing. Sexy and confident, channelling the Elvis 68 Comeback special in a black leather catsuit, her dark hair quiffed back, her eyes trained on the audience. Her touring band sound fantastic, Clark sharing riffs forehead to forehead with the wondrously talented Toko Yasuda, who mirrors the singer’s onstage antics.
Each and every move is carefully choreographed. A raised right arm adds drama. When Clark plays that fuzzy note on the chorus to ‘Digital Witness’, her hand extends immediately to us, as if to offer a gift. She shuffles around her stage like a Geisha replicant, her stare equally cold and calm. And this is what makes a St Vincent gig so different from any other. This is not merely a collection of songs, this is performance art. And visually Clark is one of the most gifted and interesting artists of her generation.
Eventually she stops to say hello to the citizens of Dublin, regaling us with quirky tales involving balloons and Irish literary figures, but unfortunately hitting a bum note by referring to Seamus O Heaney.
Mounting giant steps for ‘Cheerleader ‘and ‘Prince Johnny’, Clark stands high above her band as the twilight sky darkens. These slower numbers demonstrate her vocal prowess and their dynamics arguably engage the crowd more than any other songs from tonight’s set. The vibe in here is warm and relaxed. It’s not boisterous. Some fans are singing along, most are enjoying the visual element of the show. The set is heavy on material from St. Vincent, which itself is a record that is brilliantly detached, and Clark, an admirer of David Bowie, has created an android-like character to perform this record which makes her show so unique. For the encore, she performed ‘The Party’ mimicking the birthing process.
But don’t be fooled into thinking this is all high brow. This is very much rock music. When Clark lets rip on her guitar, she shreds like a motherf***er and headbangs furiously, only to gather herself and revert to the upright, teasing, gorgeous alien that inhabits her. Pity we didn’t see more of this, for Annie Clark is one hell of a guitarist.
Leaving the stage to warm applause, the number of casual attendees was reflected in the fact that most people were quick to head for the exits rather than hang about screaming for more. The gig was best described by one such devotee who was overheard saying ‘I can’t handle how good this is’. Because it was that good.
Review by Keith McGouran