Annie Clark has always enjoyed fucking with the formula. For the past decade she’s warped and evolved the persona of St. Vincent from indie troubadour into digital-punk, now landing on her most striking era with Masseduction. She starts the disruption by carving the show into three sections. First, a support act is canned in favour of a screening of ‘The Birthday Party’, Clark’s first foray into directing. Next is Clark’s first set of two, a chronological dash through the greatest of St. Vincent. The finale is the new record, unabridged. What’s most shocking about the ‘Fear The Future’ tour is that Clark has ditched a backing band, taking to the stage alone. Wielding her guitar to a sometimes-overpowering backing track and planted far back from the crowd, there’s a sense of distance that lingers over the early silo of songs. Hit after hit, it comes to a close with roadies kitted out as ninjas pull the curtains on Clark as she shreds through ‘Birth In Reverse’.
Minutes later and Masseduction in full begins, backlit by a vast LED display of vulgar neon tones. Hypersensual and laser-precise, it’s astounding from start to finish. If St. Vincent is a mask or disguise, this record is PVC chainmail. Tabloid hounding of her relationship with socialite Cara Delevingne has blurred that line between Clark and Vincent. Bitterness from existing under the public lens wouldn’t be out of place, but instead Masseduction is a glimmering tale of longing and love, platonic or (mostly) otherwise. ‘New York’ is a devastating account of the scars left by heartbreak, and ‘Happy Birthday, Johnny’ lays bare family strife in a way few artists would ever dare.
Lacking nuance during the first set, her solo presence now pays off. Masseduction has the power to magnetise a room in the way that her past material never could, bringing the Apollo to fever pitch with plastic-pop juggernaut ‘Pills’ or emotionally wrecking everyone with ‘Slow Disco’.
In the visuals Clark is central, flanked by towering dominatrix in balaclavas and leather; it’s iconography of control. By the time curtains close again, there should be no unbelievers – but at worst, Annie Clark puts on the best 2 hours of Guitar Hero anyone’s ever seen.
Words and photos by Ethan Weatherby.