Musicians are usually classified by their craft, but are they ever their classification? Annie Clark, AKA St. Vincent, would wholeheartedly fit into such untraditional trajectories, among many others. Amidst a wavering warmth intermixed with biting wind, a whimsical wave of ethereality enveloped Chicago on Saturday. There could have been a casual exchange here or there, a shrill whisper wafting and wallowing where walls weather like leather. Only those who were completely invested may have understood or succumbed early on to the rapture, but the rest would soon recognize rock at its prime.
Individuals began waiting outside of The Riviera as early as 1:30 that afternoon, while some attended a seemingly discreet meet-and-greet with Clark at the Urban Outfitters on Diversey Parkway between 12 and 1 p.m., then commuted to the venue to secure their places in line. Even the Starbucks across the street from the venue pumping shots of sugary sustenance and brewing the tunes of every St. Vincent album continuously to hype patrons up for the show and/or introduce others to her music. The theme was as discernible as a UFO, and Saturday could have confidently been deemed “Annie Clark Day.”
While the evening wind worsened, the mood outside emanated enthusiasm and engrossment, as though attendees had already been abducted in some capacity by Clark. When the doors opened and attendees stormed the stage (causing security guards to bark, “WALK!” each time), it became clear immediately that no one would relinquish their opportunity to have the closest view of Clark.
As the stage darkened, the venue became as riled up as Roswell in 1947: booming reverberations; a beaming stroboscope; and a computerized voice like Radiohead’s “Fitter Happier” discouraging attendees to use electronic devices, rumbled in rays, almost as though a spaceship had just landed and was prepared for world domination. Just as soon, Clark rose from the darkened stage with her band mates, her signature corkscrew curls contorting carelessly and her aqua dust eyelids scouring the crowd. Adorned in a chic black dress with red ruffling tufts and black heels, she proved that despite her petite figure, her power to dominate a stage was unquestionably attainable. The brunette bombshell gone sterling Einstein-ian babe began moving mechanically, arms extended like airplane wings and body movement as undulating as egg noodles. She opened her show with the windswept, mind-over-matter pep-talk gone song “Rattlesnake” off of her fourth and latest release, St. Vincent.
Throughout the performance there were bouts of choreography shared between her and her band (consisting of drummer Matt Johnson, synth-player and general sound supplier Daniel Mintseris, and bassist and keyboardist Toko Yasuda) that maintained robotic-like acrobatics and occasional laser-like stares into the audience, not to mention mind-controlling stories; Clark would relay potential commonalities among her and the audience from the past and present, such as having imaginary friends (particularly ones named Mercedes), setting fire to Laffy Taffy, imagining people on the “L” naked (some more appealing than others), etc., though mostly conveying an upbeat disposition and mantra promoting perseverance and belief in one’s work and efforts. She captured every essence of the word “performer,” committing to a flawless production and inevitably reaching the pinnacle for every attendee.
What’s always been so strikingly remarkable about Annie Clark is her porcelain doll physique clashing cataclysmically with her shred-shrieking guitar playing, and this particular set permitted more striking solos among the distorted grunge, some mnemonic of jam sessions in a casual practice setting, though still impeccable as a crepuscular light. That brings another point worth mentioning—her superiority. Clark is undoubtedly confident in her abilities, but still evokes a humble aura that’s cheek-pinching charming. Nonetheless, this particular tour included a lavender-painted stair platform center stage, in which she occasionally stood to sing and play, as well as sit, lay down and shift strategically like a Tetris block, only this time with her entire body. The shifts still signified how worthy Clark was of being placed on that pedestal, and the crowd earnestly expressed it. In a newer song called “Huey Newton,” Clark sang, “Entombed in a shrine of zeroes and ones, you know, you know…” However, based on the unmatchable cheers, it’s clear that the audience was entombed in a shrine of Annie Clark.
Beyond the machinelike maneuverings, Clark’s persona also exhibited an extraterrestrial being, blossoming at its peak in her freestyle guitar gambling during “Surgeon.” Between the discordant chords and palpitating strobe lights, Clark looked as though she was summoning an otherworldly digital witness. Even her notorious foot shuffling to and fro frolicked and frothed more than usual; the audience was an enraptured rally, ready to be ruled by it. The majority of songs off of St. Vincent were played, as well as timeless favorites like “Cruel,” “Marrow” and “Your Lips Are Red.” The first song of the encore, “Strange Mercy,” was a stunning, stripped down solo, where, despite a few intermittent shouts of bow-down praise for Clark, the audience, without instruction, simply stood and listened intently. In addition, the thrashing, thrust-must thriller and crowd-surf inspired “Krokodil” triggered an additional euphoric and sprightly response, where Clark writhed on the ground toward the front of the stage and became one with the thrum. That, and Clark delivered a compelling cover of Nirvana’s “Lithium” to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death. After Clark admitted to making “2,300 new friends tonight” and bowed and clapped alongside the audience at the end, she quickly ran off the stage like she was running late and ready to return to the ensorcelled realm she had emerged from. If the desire to release one’s inner weird hadn’t popped and hissed yet that evening, the time was more appropriate than ever, especially after Clark sung about being “in a city of misfits” in “Huey Newton.” Perhaps they were visitors to her invasion before, but the show’s aftermath evoked committed members to the Clark clan.
St. Vincent’s orbit is truly unlike any other musician’s, and it’s fair to say that her alien-esque antics, not to mention gifted guitar-playing, will continue to transcend the trends of rock music and more (perhaps mind-control). Obsolescence—despite its caramelized elocution—is not an option.
WXRT recorded the entire set and will have it available to watch, and more featured photos can be viewed here. Don’t miss St. Vincent’s return in July for Pitchfork. In the meantime, stay humored and informed through her Twitter (@st_vincent) and website.
Set-list: Rattlesnake / Digital Witness / Cruel / Birth in Reverse / Regret / Laughing With a Mouth of Blood / I Prefer Your Love / Pieta / Every Tear Disappears / Surgeon / Cheerleader / Prince Johnny / Year of the Tiger / Marrow / Huey Newton / Bring Me Your Loves / Northern Lights / Krokodil | Encore: Strange Mercy / Lithium / Your Lips Are Red