St. Vincent: 18.Feb.2010 - Chicago

St. Vincent enchanted Chicago's Metro last week with her eclectic mix of synthesized funk, orch-pop, electronica, art-rock, and even understated use of hip hop.

I’m not the first to say, and I definitely won’t be the last, that, as St. Vincent, Annie Clark conjures up a beautiful disturbance in the minds and hearts of listeners. And just like she’s done on her first two albums, Marry Me (2007) and Actor (2009), her live show pushes all the right buttons, pulling you into a world filled with beautiful, alluring and subversively disturbing stories.

At 27, the Tulsa Oklahoma-native has honed her live show for the last several years by touring with Austin-based band Polyphonic Spree and orch-pop indie rocker Sufjan Stevens; and, as a teenager growing up in Dallas, she also served time as the tour manager and opening band for a family band called Tuck and Patti.

Now, with two albums under her belt, she’s finally embarked on her first headlining tour. At Chicago’s Metro, her show was a phantasmagorical jaunt down a sonic rabbit hole to a place bubbling with curious melodies and mad rhythms. But instead of Alice it was Annie, leading us to a place of wonderfully twisted tales of heartache, joy, and borderline madness.

On her albums, Clark creates a balanced and experimental landscape of avant-garde art rock. It’s primarily her sweet and delicate voice that lures in you in. Live, it’s her guitar work that surges to the foreground as she tears at the strings on her fret broad, as if clawing at the skin of songs. Fans watched in awe as she squeezed every last once of pain, sadness, angst and regret from each note, making her songs even more impossibly naked and raw.

Part of the beauty of the St. Vincent sound is its electric, eclectic, and eccentric mixture--synthesized funk, orch-pop, electronica, art-rock and understated use of hip hop. Yes, hip hop. It’s not something that I first noticed on record and it wasn’t something I anticipated live, but Clark’s band mates mixing in short horn blasts with electronic break beats on drum machines recalled old school motifs J Dilla would praise, making the show deceptively irresistible. Clark further came clean about her love for classic hip hop and induced crowd chuckles as she waxed poetic about the beauty Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day”. It was an unusual segue into Nico’s “These Days”, which soothed the house into an eerie, albeit gentle, whisper. All dark and disturbing lyrics considered, Clark was deceptively sparkling.

Backed by a quintet playing a small orchestra of keyboards, drums, flute, bass, horns, clarinet and violins, Clark started the show with ”Strangers”, from Actor, then led her band in fresh, improvised versions of “Jesus Saves, I Spend”, “Paris is Burning”, and “Your Lips Are Red”, from Marry Me. During the latter songs, Clark’s guitar reverberated plumes of feedback, fuzz, and note-bending that dazzled while pulling hearts closer in.

At the beginning of the show, Clark said Chicago was her “favorite and best stop on last year’s Actor tour”. I realize artists say stuff like that all the time to butter up a crowd, but there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that it wasn’t her imagination talking.

Photos by Colleen Catania






The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.


John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.


Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.


Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.


Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.


Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.


Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.


Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.


Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".


The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.


The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.


Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.


​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.


John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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