St Vincent at The Olympia Theatre – Review & Photos
St. Vincent at the Olympia Theatre – February 22nd
The last time I saw St. Vincent in concert was in the hazy Alhambra Theatre in Paris back in 2012. There Annie Clark showed herself to be a powerhouse performer; one of the finest I had ever seen. Last night’s show at the Olympia Theatre obliterated the Paris set from my memory. It is next to impossible to find a ‘perfect’ concert, but St. Vincent’s latest round of gigs come damn close.
First we are introduced to opening act, Slow Skies. The trio perform a set of dreamy Novocaine-tinged pop-rock with tranquil guitar strums and cute lyrics; “eat our ice cream before it melts / your heart us somewhere else”. Vocalist Karen Sheridan seems charmingly shy on stage as she explains that they are “trying to chill you out before the main show”, visibly excited to be on stage at the Olympia. Her vocals have a delightful, almost child-like inflection to them, sounding slightly like a reined in version of CocoRosie’s Bianca. Keep an ear out for these guys, they seem destined to soundtrack a major US TV show soon.
As the lights dimmed a robotic voice announced that we should enjoy the show in person and not through a camera lens, a nod to St. Vincent’s new single ‘Digital Witness’. Robotics set the style for the evening as Clark came on stage with jittery animatronic dance moves and head-tilts, like the end goal of Artificial Intelligence. The pattern of her black cocktail dress makes it seem as though her heart had been torn out; she sports a wild mop of grey hair and an intense stare. Clark refrains from touching her guitar, which is placed around her neck like an Olympic gold, until the very end of opener ‘Rattlesnake’, almost teasing the audience before displaying her ferocious power.
At first she showcases tracks from her latest self-titled record like ‘Digital Witness’ and ‘Birth in Reverse’. It’s no hardship to listen to the new stuff, these are already some of the strongest in her catalogue and their impact is only strengthened by her new performance style. When Vincent moves she is part robot, part doll and she tiptoes geisha-style across the stage, but when she lets loose on guitar she is pure animal.
Older fans are not left out, of course. The set is sprinkled with St Vincent classics like ‘Laughing with a Mouth of Blood’ and ‘Cheerleader’. One of the night’s highlights is a heavy performance of ‘Marrow’ where the crowd joined in the irresistible chant; “H E L P, help me! Help me!” If you could ever pry your eyes off of St. Vincent, then Toko Yasuda, her right-hand woman on guitar, was equally electrifying. The pair performed perfectly synced dance moves and had guitar-thrashing face-offs throughout the two-hour set. Indeed one couldn’t help but notice a slight Japanese influence on the night with the mechanized movements.
In an extremely brave act, St. Vincent ditched her guitar and went for pop star-style performances, where she would writhe around her platform or thrash her way across the stage amidst more robotic dance routines. During ‘Prince Johnny’ she lays peacefully across her on-stage platform, looking every bit the ambient-filled rock star version of Millais’ Ophelia.
Clark peppers her set with endearingly quirky audience interaction, questioning if we ever feel like our arms don’t belong to us and if we ever tried to make a hot air balloon from bed sheets. After nearly two hours, the main set is finished with an energetic performance of fan-favourite Krokodil as our heroine darts off stage. She returns, although briefly, for a clement performance of ‘The Bed’ before letting loose on guitar one final time for a passionate rendition of ‘Your Lips are Red’. Only now does she let her stage persona crack, as Clark takes a bow with a beaming smile. No one could leave the latest round of St Vincent shows disappointed. She came, she transformed and conquered last night.
Review by Damien Ryan
Photos by David Doyle