St. Vincent: O2 Academy, Liverpool

St. Vincent live at the O2 Academy

St. Vincent live at the O2 Academy

Minds blown. St Vincent rips faces off a full house at the O2 Academy, Getintothis’ Emma Walsh was there and lived to tell the tale.

As the lights dim and the crowd shuffles forward, a Stephen Hawking-esq voiceover politely requests audience members to refrain from annoying everyone else with their smartphones and ipads, and we take up situ to await the arrival of her majesty, St Vincent, peering between the bobbing heads as everyone tries to catch a first glimpse.

Though her rise to acclaim has been relatively recent, the hype that surrounds St Vincent has propelled Annie Clark to iconic status and it’s really no surprise. As Getintothis’ resident feminist, this writer consciously tries to avoid zooming in on a female artist’s looks or style in lieu of actual merit or substance, but thankfully with St Vincent we don’t have to make that compromise.

Annie Clark is stunningly beautiful, she commands the stage with such an air of confidence and composure it’s mesmerising, and most importantly, she can shred a guitar like a slow roasted shoulder of pork. Her voice has a celestial wholeness akin to a young Madonna, an icon she gives a clear nod to by voguing as the band spring to life. Clark is so at ease on stage, as though she were born to take the spotlight, but it is not all about the applause, she seems perfectly content with silence, drawing out pauses as she addresses her adoring fans with a gentle serenity, welcoming “the freaks and outsiders” of Liverpool. Her soft, Southern American drawl is perhaps the antithesis to the speed and shrillness of the Scouse accent but Clarke imagines a common ground. “We’re the same you and I”, she says, recounting the universal fears and anxieties of a young girl or boy discovering a porno mag in their parent’s bedroom for the first time.

Clark looks out into the crowd with a fixed glare that could be seductive or predatory. She does not so much strut across the stage as loll leisurely around her lair. She drapes herself across the raised platform at the back of the stage, moving fluidly amid the chaos and noise of the strobe. It feels like bedlam yet Clark seems to float on the tumult, a ballerina caught in the moshpit. But don’t mistake her for some dainty thing rotating in a pretty music box, St Vincent is the music box, she is creating this barrage of noise, she and the incredible band, tearing holes in the atmosphere by the sheer power of sound. We’ve never experienced an epileptic fit, but a St Vincent performance must be a close experience. But with a top notch soundtrack. Churning out tune after tune with Prince Johnny, Digital Witness, Cruel and Cheerleader, St Vincent are relentless, both enthralling and exhausting.

Moving in sequence, Clark and her guitarist inject a sense of performance art to the set, playing at one point with their foreheads pressed together. There’s a playfulness to St Vincent’s performance, the band are tight enough to put on a real show. At another extended silence the band lift their heads to the ceiling in unison, the audience holding their breath as Clark’s chin drops and, with a violent gasp, brings the band to life again, launching into another brutal yet magnificent assault on the senses.

In introducing her band, Clark practically does our job for us, elegantly chronicling their individual merits but there is one tribute which epitomised St Vincent perfectly “making organised that which is deeply chaotic”, creating something that you feel in your chest and your guts, that rips your face off and leaves you spent and exhausted yet deeply, deeply satisfied. Sublime.

Pictures by Getintothis‘ Gaz Jones