Review: St. Vincent At Old National’s Egyptian Room
St. Vincent has an ax to grind, in the best way.
The Masseduction of Annie Clark rocked-and-rolled through Indy last night at Old National Centre’s Egyptian Room. The singer wielded a few of the custom-made electric guitars she designed and alternately breezed and tore through 10 tracks from past albums before playing her new record in its entirety.
A spare beginning saw the singer accompanied only by a stage curtain, a spotlight, and her own shadow. She was, however, clad in her latest, favorite-est latex bodysuit, in a color somewhere on the spectrum between hot magenta and fuchsia.
Ah, the fantastically bearable brightness of being St. Vincent.
Opener “Marry Me” from her eponymous 2007 album arrived as an ode to a John the artist later likely referenced again with Masseduction’s “Happy Birthday, Johnny.” Quick, someone, please ask her directly about this fellow; his repeated presence in her lyrics begs for story time.
On this night, St. Vincent eased through her late-aughts and early-2010s catalog with aplomb, offering up standouts such as “Actor Out of Work” (hailing from 2009’s Actor), “Cruel” and “Cheerleader” (via 2011’s Strange Mercy), and “Digital Witness” and “Birth in Reverse” (from 2013’s self-titled fourth album).
We need to talk about her guitars. By turns, they shimmer and they crunch—from the propelling grind of “Actor” to the splendid riffs of “Digital Witness” and “Los Ageless.” I first took heed of just how good Clark is on the instrument upon finding her cover of the Beatles’ “Dig a Pony” from an outdoor music-festival performance in 2009. She prefaced that take—which, for me, eclipsed the original—with a few chords from Jimi Hendrix’s “Star-Spangled Banner” before abruptly halting and whispering “I’m just kidding” into the mic.
St. Vincent’s one moment of teasing on this night—aside from all the eye candy projected on the screen behind her for the back half of the show – came when she introduced Masseduction’s first single, “New York.” “The next song could have been called ‘Indianapolis,’ but you just have so many syllables,” she winkingly shrugged to her assembled stans. And it’s true, this city’s name can be unwieldy.
Still, “New York”—for all of its music video’s gorgeous visuals, reminiscent of The Grand Budapest Hotel in that every frame should be hung on a wall somewhere—lends a striking look at the artist as sad-eyed poet. All of the polished, bright-eyed scenes therein belie the fact that it’s a plainly devastating read. And therein lies Clark’s charm: She is equally at home on the sides of “masseduction” and “mass destruction,” both intoned in her latest release’s title track.
Before “New York,” St. Vincent delivered whirling, synth-soaked guitar licks on “Los Ageless,” the second single from Masseduction, and added on a lyrical coda: “I tried to write you a love song, but it comes out a lament.” Perhaps that’s Annie Clark in a nutshell: girl with bleeding heart, guitar hero with bleeding fingers.
Speaking of guitar icons, earlier in that Masseduction set, Clark channeled Prince on “Pills,” with the song’s meandering, modulated third act slipping into the Purple One’s soundscape. Like the artist’s stage costuming on this evening, the aural reference was a perfect fit.
As is her wont, St. Vincent would have no customary opening act. Her rapt audience was greeted by a short film to start, titled “The Birthday Party” and directed by hers truly. That clip ran about 10 minutes in length and likely provided a giddily morbid glimpse into her forthcoming horror anthology, called XX.
When it was over, these 90 minutes of glamorous rock, Annie Clark’s confident one-woman show and its aesthetically wondrous, maximalist visuals disappeared into the night’s mist. Indianapolis brought the rain. In all of its fluorescent gloss, St. Vincent brought the raw.
Actor Out of Work
Birth in Reverse
Masseduction, in its entirety:
Hang On Me
Happy Birthday, Johnny
Fear the Future
Dancing With a Ghost