Live Review: St. Vincent – Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London 4/21/09

Having made her name as part of large performance bands including Sufjan Stevens’ touring band and The Polyphonic Spree you might think Annie Clark would be uncomfortable up onstage alone, but this is not the case. Clark, who performs under the stage name St. Vincent, chats away between songs, thanking the audience sincerely and profusely, relating short anecdotes and cracking the odd joke, which is all just an added bonus to the magical performance that she delivers.

She starts off the night with “Jesus Saves, I Spend,” a favourite from her debut album before, playing a couple of new songs from her upcoming album Actor. When she announces that she is going to play “The Strangers,” she is taken aback by the cheering, having presumed that none of the audience had heard the unreleased song; “I’m suspicious of some of you” she quips with a coy smile before launching into the song. Unafraid to attack the guitar in order to achieve the desired tones she looks in a trance as she jerks around with her eyes closed fiddling all the while with the whammy bar.

Obviously playing these songs solo (save for a few samples and a drum machine) means that some have a quite different sound to the studio versions. She plays what she mockingly calls a “Brian Eno version” of recent single “Actor Out of Work,” complete with heavily reverbed guitar played over the looped main riff, as well as stripped back versions of “Marry Me” and “The Party.” However, the highlight of the night is “Black Rainbow,” which with the accompaniment of a cacophonous violin-laden backing track makes the room seem like it has suddenly become home to a full orchestra with Clark at the center conducting it all.

The night ends with Clark’s first single under the St. Vincent moniker, “Paris is Burning,” which the crowd had been waiting for all night. Once again it is a quieter version than the studio one which only accentuates Clark’s beautiful vocals. When the show is finished and her spell upon the crowd is lifted she receives rapturous applause for her stunning performance, and well was it deserved.


    Marry Me


Set List:

Jesus Saves, I Spend
The Strangers
Actor Out Of Work
Marry Me
Black Rainbow
Your Lips Are Red
The Party
Paris Is Burning

– Rob Hakimian