PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

St. Vincent: 11 February 2010: Phoenix, AZ

Andrew Watson

St. Vincent (AKA Annie Clark) is a magnificent performer with a talented, intelligent group of musicians by her side. I defy anyone with blood still flowing through their veins to remain still and unmoved during her performances.

St. Vincent

St. Vincent

City: Phoenix, AZ
Venue: Rhythm Room
Date: 2010-02-11

You must forgive me. First of all, I am a mere writer and an unheralded one at that. The only devices I can call upon are simple words and phrases, and frankly, there is no more useless tool than a pile of nouns and verbs when it comes to describing Annie Clark. Secondly, though I am indeed male, I am also of the married kind, which in a way precludes me from producing the kind of gushing, wolf-whistling, “hubba-hubba “prose that you typically find when reading reviews of her work, and particularly her live act. Doesn’t mean I couldn’t go there, just that I shouldn’t. After all, she might read this (not you Annie, my wife—though if you do happen to read this and feel like meeting for a cup of coffee to show your appreciation I’m sure we could arrange something).

I was expecting great things for my first St. Vincent experience. Though a relative newcomer to Ms. Clark’s material, I had spent the past year or so devouring both of her LPs, developing a particular affinity for her latest, Actor, in the process. I simply cannot get enough of the record. The prospect of seeing it performed in a cozy locale like the Rhythm Room was an opportunity I couldn’t ignore.

After a memorable, at times jaw-dropping opening set from Swedish duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Annie and her band of merry men quietly appeared onstage. “The Strangers” is the perfect show opener for two reasons. One: it’s the album opener on Actor. Two: the song itself is a lovely, string and flute based organism, twisting and turning its way through several grim passages (“Paint the black hole blacker / Paint the black hole blacker”) before finally, finally, punching through the lush veneer straight into mean and nasty guitar skronk, an echo of voices fading in and out around the noise.

It led straight into “Save Me From What I Want” (as I hoped it would) and by that time the place was completely alive. On paper it seems an unremarkable track—simple, repetitive drum pattern, two-note guitar phrase, lots of empty space—but there is a confident air to Clark’s delivery and performance; an aggressive, captivating quality that demands your attention. Her moments of musical fury, while well-documented, are select and few. They are, nevertheless, quite memorable. Her guitar solos are all bent waist, stomping feet and bruised knees. It’s very physical and highly visceral. In other words, she’s great theatre.

“Actor Out of Work” was pure burn; alto sax meets bass meets the kind of chugging, low-end punk rock that leaves your neck sore. By the time it wrapped, Clark was on her knees, banging at her pedal rack with her fists, conjuring a ghastly howl. It’s fascinating to me that someone so petite can shred so righteously, and with such clarity. Her subsequent ability to then turn and silence an entire roomful of people with a stunning acoustic rendition of Nico’s “These Days” is testament to her God-given versatility. It was arguably the moment of the evening.

I say arguably, because after “These Days” came the Holy Trinity. She played the three finest tracks off Actor (“Black Rainbow”, “Marrow” ,“The Party”) in swift succession to close the set. I struggle to make apt comparisons, and, as I stated earlier, words don’t do this woman justice, but suffice to say the events that took place in that room during that 10-12 minute span were a great pleasure to behold. She is a magnificent performer with a talented, intelligent group of musicians by her side. I defy anyone with blood still flowing through their veins to remain still and unmoved when “Marrow” gallops into its big-throated midsection, with horns and drums wedded in an irresistible march; a sheer masterstroke of low-end funk fantasia.

She ended the night with a scorching rendition of “Your Lips Are Red”, one of the few cuts from Marry Me that made the set. I glanced at the dazzled grins and awestruck mugs beaming out alongside my own and as I marveled at my own dumb-luck, I couldn’t help wondering what was next for me. A little more than a year ago I was unaware of St. Vincent. What else is out there? What else am I missing? It’s a brilliant time to be a music lover, ladies and gentlemen. Savor it.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.