St. Vincent’s Captivating Performance at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre

The last time Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, rolled into town in 2015 to play the Iveagh Gardens there were a lot of contributing factors that took away from that evening’s show. The open air, July’s fading-but-not-quite dark sky, the venue’s notoriously chatty post-work Friday night crowd and the distance between performer and attendance all combined to make it a slightly underwhelming affair. Thankfully this was not the case last weekend as Clark returned to our shores with her “Fear the Future” tour.

The Olympia Theatre’s intimate surroundings are much better suited for this kind of show. The closed roof, dark room, excellent sound and proximity of the stage all ensure there is no danger of the performance losing any of its impact. Add in Saturday night’s reverent, appreciative crowd and Clark’s mesmerising stage presence and you’ve got the perfect mix. Tonight’s live show is neatly divided into two halves and is nothing short of spectacular.

Clark, appearing on stage dressed to kill in shocking pink, thigh-high leather high-heel boots and scantily daring, figure-hugging leotard and accompanied only by her electric guitar, quietly begins with two songs (the title track and ‘Now, Now’) off her first album, 2007’s Marry Me. Commencing on stage left with a black curtain covering the rest of the stage, each new song sees Clark shift to a new position as she moves across the stage fearlessly on her own with just the spotlight and curtain following.

There are no gimmicks here, no backing musicians or singers, only backing tracks and an ever-changing selection of brightly coloured guitars. Clark’s command of the stage is total and, it must be said, awe-inspiring. This is not just music performance, this is performance art.

The remainder of the first half sees Clark traverse chronologically through her back catalogue of albums – 2009’s Actor, 2011’s Strange Mercy and 2014’s St Vincent – all the time assuming a different position on stage. Highlights include ‘Cruel’ and ‘Cheerleader’ which both showcase Clark’s dazzling guitar playing and powerful vocals. After completing a semi-circle of the stage, she then belts out ‘Strange Mercy’ while lying on the floor on her side looking out on the audience.

Then follows rousing versions of ‘Digital Witness’, ‘Rattlesnake’ and ‘Birth In Reverse’ that get an already excited crowd going wilder. Purists could argue that tracks like ‘Digital Witness’ would sound better with the full treatment of a live horn section and backing band but that’d be missing the point of tonight’s show completely. As the curtains draw close on the first act, everyone can take a collective moment’s breath.

A quick costume change later and Clark appears back on stage, again alone, in an only slightly more subdued outfit. The second half of the show sees her draw entirely on songs from her excellent new album ‘Masseduction’, which is quite a bit poppier than her earlier material. Everything is accompanied by a captivating visual art installation taking place on a huge screen behind her.

Standout tracks in this half include the singles ‘Los Ageless’ and the beautiful ballad, ‘New York’, along with ‘Masseduction’ and the banging electro-pop of ‘Sugarboy’. Clark is in fine form when engaging with the crowd and draws a particularly enthusiastic response when giving a shout out to all the “freaks and queers” in the audience.

Clark closes out with the final two songs on the album. The gorgeous, swooning ballad, ‘Slow Disco’, is simply astonishing (probably the outstanding moment of the evening) while ‘Smoking Section’ gently closes out proceedings to rapturous applause. The curtains draw close for a final time and the lights come swiftly on. Nobody expects an encore after such a phenomenal show. The crowd have been treated to something very special tonight and they know it.

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