St Vincent, gig review: Annie Clark earns her place on a pedestal

4.00

Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

The cover of Annie Clark’s latest album - the self-titled St Vincent - sees the singer/master guitar-player sat regally upon a pink throne, like some alien high priestess about to blast you with lazer eyes, or possibly a dose of distorted, dark space-funk.

Live, we’re missing the throne, but she does come with a three-piece band and a tiered, pastel-pink podium; they’ll be cheers when she finally ascends it to belt out “Cheerleader”, a suitably bold, guitar-thrashing, drum-smashing anthem that’s as fuzzed out as her curly grey hairdo.

That was from her last album, 2011’s majestic Strange Mercy, but before we reach it there’s a thorough introduction to the new material.

Not that this is any hardship: the latest album is her most coherent and well-constructed yet, and early tracks tonight - the jerky adrenaline-shot “Rattlesnake” (written after Clark had to flee such creatures when out taking a walk naked, as you do) and the cymbal-tapping and tightly-wrought riffs of “Birth in Reverse” - show off its most accessible moments.

And they reveal her guitar-playing chops, her fingers twitching and rucking up and down the neck like crackling lightning. 

Clark gives every track a full live treatment: one minute it’s coolly precise robot dancing, the next she’s writhing and arching on the floor, or inviting the crowd to play her instrument till a security guard scoops her back onstage. Technical hitches shall not fluster her. She still does her trademark tottering, scurrying high-heeled baby-steps, but for this tour a fellow female second guitarist synchronizes with her; their joint motion is weirdly reminiscent of the gliding aliens from Mars Attacks.

On the luxuriously silky ballad “I Prefer Your Love”, Clark lounges on that pedestal, crooning beautifully; soon, she’s tumbling down the steps like a broken doll. If that all sounds ickily infantilizing or sexualised, it isn’t - it’s too odd, and too wholly her own style. Clark, with her short skirt and thrusting playing, toys with her sexuality but no-one could doubt who’s in control here. She’s as fierce as her music, which frequently reaches brain-cell blitzing levels of distortion, as she whips herself into a frenzy, or tears into the sort of spectacularly indulgent solo that would have Jimi Hendrix spinning - with delight - in his grave.

The performative aspects of the show were moulded by her tour last year with David Byrne, which featured a jovially choreographed brass section; such upbeat multi-instrumentalism is missed here - especially on the cracking new, horn-heavy track “Digital Witness”.

Clark’s lyrics range from the dreamily opaque to the soul-baringly frank, but this song offers her most graspable, if wry, comment on the modern world, in all its Instagrammed, selfie-taking obsession: “if I can't show it, if you can't see me /what's the point of doing anything?“ she sings. Indeed, we’re asked not to record the evening on any digital devices, but to be in the moment: not a difficult request coming from one so striking.

Clark earns that place on a pedestal.

Arts and Entertainment
The Rolling Stones at the Roundhouse in London in 1971: from the left, Keys, Charlie Watts, Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger

Music ...featuring Eric Clapton no less
Arts and Entertainment
In the dock: Dot Branning (June Brown); Union boss claims EastEnders writers are paid less than minimum wage

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Roger Christian wrote and directed the 1980 Black Angel original, which was lost until 2011

film
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Green (Hand out press photograph provided by Camilla Gould)

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones reviewWarning: Spoilers aplenty
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific