at Shepherd’s Bush Empire
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My enduring memory of St Vincent at Shepherd’s Bush Empire is Annie Clark bathed in red light screaming a decidedly messy rock-out version of Your Lips Are Red before a lengthy bout of crowd surfing, rounded off by returning to the stage and crashing her guitar to the floor. It didn’t smash in two so we narrowly escaped any rock and roll cliché.
St Vincent (Annie Clark’s stage name) is never someone you can take your eyes off. She is striking in appearance, all coldly beautiful with piercing blue eyes; when she is riding around on everyone’s heads (erm, still talking about crowd surfing here) we all pile on to catch her like it’s an upside down game of rugby. Moments like this in the encore are when St Vincent’s music has brief eruptions of obvious rage in amongst what is usually music which envelopes and feels comforting even when the subject matter is total sadness. Clark appears kind of nervous, but not in a way that is excruciating to watch or does anything other than prove that nerves can be amazing endorphin-inducing things which propel performers forwards.
Endorphins or not, it’s rarely a cheery romp with St Vincent, as much of the set is comprised of songs from latest album Cruel Mercy which Annie announces was written during 2010 which was a ‘bum year’ (stop it). She also tells us it was the year of the Tiger on the Chinese calendar before playing the song of the same name. The track gains more of a sense of urgency being played live without losing the richness of its sound.
Some smart arse muso know-it-all shouts something sarcastic about the sound guy. Muso know-it-all obviously thinks he’s really clever and the sound guy has fucked up. From where I’m standing (quite near the speaker) the sound is great and one of my favourite parts of the gig is the distorted synth and guitar sounds sometimes employed by Clark and her backing band. I like it when the distortions go all the way through my body.
St Vincent cover She Is Beyond Good And Evil by the Pop Group, a furious slice of punk which gives a nod to some spikier St Vincent influences, more obvious in the live show than on the records. I can’t neglect to mention Annie Clark’s voice itself which is powerful, beautiful and brings a kind of darkness with it to complement her often grim subject matter. I’m not talking goth, just the opposite of saccharine. In fact the words Black Rainbow, a song which SV do a shimmering version of at the gig, pretty much sums it up.
Now who wouldn’t want to see a black rainbow?
Words: Len Lukowska
Photo: Tina Tyrell