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An Electric, Captivating Performance from St. Vincent

February 27th, 2014

St. Vincent – Terminal 5 – February 26, 2014

St. Vincent - Terminal 5 - February 26, 2014
At the beginning of St. Vincent’s sold-out show at Terminal 5 last night, concertgoers were greeted by a robotic voice emanating from the darkened stage. It had a simple request: “Please refrain from digitally capturing your experience.” Moments later Annie Clark and her band were in the midst of an electrifying performance of “Rattlesnake,” the opening song from St. Vincent’s new self-titled record. As she sang, Clark engaged in a precise, deliberate dance, at once assertive, coy, delicate and mechanical. Bowing her head as her guitar was presented to her, Clark finished the song with a shrieking guitar solo amid a bombardment of strobes—those in the crowd no doubt itching to capture the visual experience on their devices, but to the robot’s approval (mostly), refraining … for now.

The larger issue Clark may have been getting at with the show’s robotic introduction was perhaps revealed in the tongue-in-cheek lyrics of the next song, “Digital Witness,” in which she asks, “What’s the point of even sleeping/ If I can’t show it/ You can’t see me?/ What’s the point of doing anything?” Clark and Co. seemed poised to prove that a digital witness shouldn’t validate our experience, and last night’s well-crafted, cohesive performance was undoubtedly engrossing enough to captive a digitally addicted audience for a couple of hours, smartphones languishing in pockets. New songs like “Birth in Reverse,” “Regret” and “Prince Johnny” were slick and sonically textured, and performed with more mechanical-graceful choreography and Clark’s utmost focus and intensity.

Clark danced, shredded her guitar and occasionally climbed and writhed atop the large, tiered platform center stage—at one point, slowly rolling her body down the stairs until she lay splayed, upside down, staring out at the crowd—the most arresting vision of the night. As with her unique staging, Clark also didn’t settle for ordinary stage banter. “We have things in common we don’t realize yet,” announced St. Vincent between songs, in a cryptic, David Lynch-ian manner. Among them: “Sometimes, when you look at your limbs, you think, are these really my limbs?” Ending the show with “Your Lips Are Red,” she processed and manipulated her own vocals until they were just as otherworldly and robotic as the opening introduction. It was a nice, full-circle ending to a captivating performance that surely justified a reduction of digital exposure. —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Jeremy Ross | jeremypross.com