The first time I saw St Vincent, she/they were opening for Andrew Bird at the Cat’s Cradle.
I’d never heard St Vincent before, and since we were right up front and they were the opening band, the sound was terrible. I had no idea what they were playing. But there were actual instruments on stage, and people were playing them, along with a lot of sequenced electronics. It was obvious the star was Annie Clark, but she was still one of the band.
The next time I saw them/her, it was at another small club. But they had graduated to a full-on stage show with intricate choreography and costumes. There was a drummer and two keyboard players. Annie Clark sang and played guitar. But, it was hard to say if the drummer was just playing along to a drum machine or not, and keyboards are always suspect – one of the keyboard players did a lot of performing while the music happily played away. They were never featured musically. Basically, Annie Clark was so much the star that the other people were nearly stage decoration.
But on this tour, in proper theaters not little clubs, she has gone ahead and made it clear. Through a clever series of reveals and misdirections over the first eight or ten songs, she shows everyone who St Vincent really is: Annie Clark. The whole show is her, alone on stage, with just a microphone and a guitar, playing to thunderous backing tracks. No amps, no pedals, no cords.
Behind her, a giant screen showed videos (mostly of her) and the lights were dazzling. She must have a dozen of her signature guitars, in different colors – fluorescent orange and pink, blue and yellow, a gold one tuned for playing slide, etc.. All of them color coordinated with the movies and lighting. It was an impressive, almost overwhelming, presentation.
And the music was good, too! She played almost everything I wanted to hear, and it all sounded fantastic. Even though I’m a little naturally skeptical of pre-recorded backing tracks, she made the show work. Instead of having a few bored-looking people behind her poking at keyboards pretending to play, she just went ahead and made herself the whole show, which she’s always been anyway.