For those celebrating International Women’s Day, St. Vincent’s performance at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel Sunday could not have been a better example of a powerful woman. Supported by Toko Yasuda on keyboard, guitar and backup vocals, Pete Dyer on keyboard and Matt Johnson on drums, Annie Clark — whose stage name is St. Vincent — displayed the full spectrum of quiet emotion to unadulterated fun.
The set, which began with “Bring Me Your Loves” and quickly transitioned to crowd favorites such as “Digital Witness” and “Cruel,” was punctuated by stories told by Clark, who wove together imagined vignettes of the crowd’s shared childhood. “Your family calls you ‘kangaroo’ for some reason, but like braces in seventh grade, you wish it would stop. You think Sophie at the bus stop is inexplicably beautiful,” she described, speaking with a voice so warm that audience members could not help but fall into her dreamlike narratives.
Clark’s words recalled fragments of her own childhood, foreign pictures that became the audience’s own. “Once when you were a little kid, you told a lie and you got very sick the day after, and you thought you were being punished. But you don’t even believe in that kind of eye-for-eye ‘Code of Hammurabi,’” she continued. “So you went into your garage and you made a fort out of aluminum foil and toilet paper cylindrical rolls and Pabst Blue Ribbon cans. You thought you had created something beautiful out of all this muck and you thought that for once all was right with the universe.”
Crab-like, Clark scuttled around stage to a point of fluidity where, if audience members had only watched her head rather than her high-heeled feet, they would have thought a puppeteer was pulling her through space.
Nearly every song was interjected with a guitar solo by Clark. When she was not shredding, Clark was rolling across the floor in her sequined black dress while Yasuda filled the space with high-energy notes from her keyboard and, as Clark later described, “face-melting” bass-guitar rifts.
The show was tight and well-rehearsed, never missing a beat even at songs’ most climactic points. The crowd responded with frenzy and heavy applause to Clark’s dance movements, synchronized with Yasuda, like two robots programmed in harmony.
Ballads like “Prince Johnny” put Clark in a more emotional light, exposing her vulnerabilities, while showcasing her lyrical genius. Some audience members tried to fill the moments of higher tension, which could be perceived as awkward silence, with cat calls and shouts of “I love you!” But Clark’s more somber fans treated the silences and hollow, drawn-out notes with reverence.
The show was packed with suspense, and Clark pulled out one stunt after another to keep the audience engaged. During “Surgeon,” she jumped off of the stage and onto an amp before the front row, and then took off her guitar as the crowd hungrily pushed forward as if lured in by Clark’s hypnotic power. The act foreshadowed her final song, “Lips,” during which she crowd surfed on the clamoring audience. She was not passed along far before a security team member pulled her back on stage.
After returning to the stage, Clark indicated to the security guard to crouch down. She climbed onto his back, grabbing onto a nearby ledge on the right side of the stage. As she attempted to climb onto the ledge, it faltered under her weight and tumbled toward the audience along with her — she had literally torn the house down.
“This place is a shithole!” she screamed as she was delivered back on stage. The audience passed back the disembodied ledge, chanting her name and feeding Clark back her own energy.
St. Vincent’s show matched psychedelic awe with moments of intimacy. Her performance left audiences feeling not as though they had witnessed a set of songs, but rather as though they had been transported through a spiritual experience.
As Clark said herself: “Beautiful, strange — the curse of music.”