“It feels like the end of an action movie,” Annie Clark declares to a packed-out Olympia during the third act of her show. She means it as straightforward piece of social commentary, but it’s a phrase that used to be applicable to St Vincent’s live shows.
From 2014 to 2015 the Digital Witness tour gained notoriety as an instrument of meticulously controlled, breathtakingly choreographed chaos – even the accidents, such as when Annie fell off a speaker stack in Knoxville, Tennessee, were played off as if by design.
In the opulent surrounds of the Olympia on the FEARTHEFUTURE tour, the chaos and action is gone but the breathtaking poise and control remains – it’s a different sort of movie altogether.
Here she foregoes a band, forgoes even an opener – screening her horror short The Birthday Party as the first act of the night – but as soon as she emerges in a spotlight stage left, curtains not even drawn, we’re eating out the palm of her hand.
The saccharine-sweet ‘Marry Me’ begins this second act of the solo Annie Clark show – a run through the St Vincent back catalogue in chronological order – each album represented, albeit with each song in slightly deconstructed form.
There are no visuals for this act, leaving all eyes on Clark’s android-like stage presence, pink thigh-high boots and furry collar. Curtains drawn diagonally across the stage give the impression of peering into a confined room – a realm where Clark reigns supreme. Or perhaps a statement on feeling confined by older material?
With the economical, surgical precision of her guitar-playing and on-stage movements, Clark invites us to consider such layers of meaning – perhaps deliberately, perhaps not, but that is her power. She knows it too – “I’ve played dumb when I knew better, tried so hard just to be clever” is the line that most rings true from ‘Cheerleader’ – an anthem which could level Croke Park, band or no.
‘Strange Mercy’ is performed prostrate onstage before a trio of big hitters from 2014’s self-titled album ushered in the third act – new album MASSEDUCTION played in full.
Clark presents her latest works from a centre-stage podium, visuals now present behind her. Her personal life has changed radically since her last tour – relationships with Cara Delevigne and Kristen Stewart have made her paparazzi fodder, and both this album and show feel like Clark throwing down the gauntlet to them, proving that her pop-star credentials stand alone.
Delevigne is spotted in a box enjoying her own voiceover on the appropriately addictive ‘Pills’, and the crowd relish ‘Los Ageless’ – possibly Clark’s best chorus yet.
It’s the more tender reflections on the downsides of fame, where Clark’s android spell breaks a little, that will live long in the memory. “I hope you find peace,” she wishes to her old Prince Johnny on ‘Happy Birthday Johnny’, the most emotional moment of the night.
“It’s not the end,” declares closer ‘Smoking Section’, and fans will hope the tour will return – with the same poise and control, but hopefully the album play-through will be dispensed for a more balanced set.
St Vincent photographed for State by Olga Kuzmenko