For fans of St. Vincent, Annie Clark’s thin face and tousled hair are quite familiar, dominating the covers of her two full-length albums. It’s no surprise to find your eye naturally drawn there during a performance by Clark and her group, tracking her expressions and trying to gain insight into how the wiry, quiet Texan could produce such wondrous compositions. However, the feast for the eyes extended far beyond Clark’s visage on this night, as the dynamic lighting at Venue, the bookish tweed-jacketed drummer and Clark’s colour-changing dress all competed for visual attention.
There was an auditory feast to match the visual one, featuring woodwinds, saxophone and electronic tricks to fill out the sound of Clark’s coy vocals. Stylistic variations were more pronounced than on record: a softer section might begin to morph into a Load Records-style noise jam before giving way to the strained notes of a lone violin. Clark repeatedly triggered savage distortion effects on her guitar (likely an influence of her tenure in one of Glenn Branca’s orchestras), giving songs like “Your Lips Are Red” and “Marrow” a vicious new edge. “Actor Out Of Work” marched along with precision, and “The Bed” provided a dreamlike reprieve from the more intense moments. An encore that concluded with vocal harmonies rivaling Fleet Foxes only reinforced St. Vincent’s status as a live act with very little to improve upon.
Opening the evening, Wildbirds & Peacedrums used a booming drum kit and a Jamaican steel drum to impressive effect. Singer Mariam Wallentin supplied wild gesticulations and a sonorous voice, sounding occasionally like Antony Hegarty [ed. better known as the guy who plays with the Johnsons] or channeling the furor of southern gospel. Drummer Andreas Werliin’s numerous solos and overall rhythmic prowess underlaid a set that was tribal, melodious and soulful at turns. Together, they not only provided a nice complement to the skewed songwriting of St. Vincent, but also displayed a unique, stirring style that won’t be soon forgotten.