St. Vincent Should Come With a Warning Label (Concert Review, 11/5/12)

13 May

Because damn.  Her concert last night at the Vic utterly destroyed me.

The set list as I remember it:

  • Marrow
  • Cheerleader
  • Chloe in the Afternoon
  • Save Me From What I Want
  • Black Rainbow
  • Surgeon
  • Actor Out of Work
  • Cruel
  • A cover of The Pop Group
  • Champagne Year
  • Northern Lights
  • Year of the Tiger

And Your Lips Are Red for the encore.

This was my first time seeing St. Vincent, and it was a terrifying experience.  She absolutely lost her shit up there, playing with an almost violent ferocity that definitely doesn’t come through on the records.  Even her old, softer song had a sharp, vicious twist to them.  Actor Out of Work, for example, is a song that I always considered to be firmly pop, and I listen to it when I’m looking for something more upbeat.

She shredded that song.  She tore the shit out of that song.  It was amazing.  I am totally in love with her.

The lighting was completely epic, and definitely added to the performance far more than the lighting in most concerts I’ve been to.  If you have PTSD or epilepsy, do not go to one of her shows.  For real.  A lot of the lights were white or red, sometimes blazing from behind her, burning this black silhouette of a guitar, wild skinny arms, and a tangle of hair into the background.  Sometimes the lights flashed rapidly, and it looked like she was winking in and out od existence as she staggered around the stage, attacking her guitar with a vigor that produced a powerful, ear-ringing sound.

It was weird during the breaks, because she would talk about the songs or about whatever, and her voice was so soft and sweet, and she was very quiet… And then she’d start playing again, and sometimes she would yowl the lyrics into the mic, or open her mouth wide and sing as loudly and fully as possible.  During the guitar solos, she looked like she was ripping the guts out of something–her right hand would jab at the strings faster than you can believe, darting below the bridge and back up in a swift U-shape to change the pitch of the chord.  It legitimately looked like she was attacking something when she played.

Then, of course, she crowd surfed.  She started out standing on a bunch of people with a tech guy supporting her, swaying back and forth, almost spineless, like she was possessed. And then she hurled herself down into the expectant bed of hands, rolling across the crowd and screaming the lyrics to whatever song she was doing.  A lot of times, the only thing I saw of her was one fabulous shoe rising above the crowd.  She finished by laying across a bunch of people, convulsing as she sang, before floating back to the stage and walking calmly to her mic.

Going into a couple of the songs specifically:

Champagne Year started as a slow choral build-up, and I actually thought it was a filler track until another instrument came in.  Talk about apotheosis, man.  Wow.  It was a very slow build-up indeed, voices layering and layering, creating this thick wash of sound, accompanied by the morphing colors of the lights.  And then she sang on top of it, and it was so beautiful and slow.  This song, which isn’t even one of my favorites, is what proves to me that she has massive talent.  Because anyone can freak out on stage, but it takes a hell of a lot more effort and skill to control that wild energy and distill it into slower, more careful music.

Then, in Northern Lights, at the build-up in the end (which, okay, side note: I’ve been listening to this song for the past few days thinking”if she plays this I will lose mys shit”.  Consider it lost.), she started messing with this white box that had an antenna coming out of it.  Every time she brought her hand close to it, it would start to wail.  So she played the antenna.  It was kind of like sliding your hand up the strings on a violin, where when you get close to the body you get a higher sound.  At the very end, she got right up against it and it shrieked.  Again, amazing, awesome, wow.

St. Vincent is terrifying and beautiful.  She’s insanely talented and absolutely ruthless with her talent.  Being in the crowd at one of hers concerts is a unique experience, fraught with a soul-chilling ruinenlust.  Her music makes me want to smash in windows and rob banks, drive across country in the desert with the money in the trunk, wearing expensive fucking shoes.  It is amazing to go from Marry Me to this concert.  Amazing.

Next concert review: Andrew Bird.

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