MUSIC – St Vincent brings transgressive pop to the Playhouse

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Few people can claim to have performed in front of an audience of hundreds in their under garments and successfully pulled it off with transgressive style.

But the epic, novel Grammy award-winning St Vincent, aka, Annie Clarke, is one such individual.

David Bowie, Madonna and Lady Gaga, amongst her sophisticated forbears were all able to fuse flamboyant artistry and surreal fashion with pop.

St Vincent is just as renegade and unyielding as she demonstrates tonight. ‘Let’s find the power,’ she implores.

As part of this EIF Light On The Shore showcase, before a sweaty crowd of dancing fans, the confident, intelligent guitar-wielding force of nature, donned flesh-coloured leotard, over-the-knee orange boots, painted her lips red, and grabbed her bright orange instrument to escort fans at the Playhouse to within an inch of their lives.

The avant-garde 36-year-old, who pushes forward into uncharted territory, curated a fierce musical assault; challenging, wild, weird, provocative, uncomfortable, mischievous and poppy.

Super sonic distorting synths and screaming guitars led a never for a second insipid set as, with her band, disguised in sinister blonde mop top wigs and face-distorting stockings, tore through her inspired music with precision and focus.

All the while projected on a screen behind her were difficult, unsettling and at turns fun and playful, images of the performer acting out her beliefs and lyrics.

One shot shows her with angular green bob, spewing up green liquid, another battered and blue with bloody lips being punched by a floral boxing glove.

She is more provocatively corseted and bare breasted in another short movie and accompanied by a troupe of dancing blonde mop tops in psychedelic pink frocks in one more.

This artful mischief with her image I’m told extends to interviews and only adds to the enigma that is St Vincent.

Photo: Nedda Afsari

Transgressive pop, is how her music has been categorised, and her album Masseducation was described as ‘one of the best pop albums of the year,’ last year.

The gig, part of her, I Am A Lot Like You Tour!, kicked-in with the raw Sugarboy ; ‘Oh here I go, A casualty hangin’ on from the balcony. Oh here I go, Makin’ a scene, Oh here I am, Your pain machine.’

She moves forward into the tough and frank, Los Ageless, a musing on the entertainment industry’s obsession with beauty;  ‘In Los Ageless, the waves they never break’…How can anybody have you and lose you? And not lose their minds too?’

Clark, who has worked with some of the music/art world’s most creative luminaries, including David Byrne, Polyphonic Spree, Sufjen Stevens and Swans, has clearly felt on the edge at times.

During the performance she states: ‘The next one is a little hymn for anybody who has ever felt completely out of the place,’ before moving forward with Slow Disco.

By mid-section, she has let loose with some unapologetic pop and Digital Witness breaks out a big sweat across the crowd, as the whole of the auditorium take to their feet in fevered singing and clapping.

At one stage the formidable guitarist, who treats her instrument almost like an extension of herself, falls to her knees, reminiscent of Hendrix, for a riff both dexterous and stunning.

Daring and untouchable, the artist that is St Vincible is on fire tonight.

Identifying what is missing in this world of recycling rock trends, she has hit on something new.

And her fans are happy to reflect her experimental glory.