Saturday 16 December 2017

Saint burns brightly

Niall Byrne - Beta

St.Vincent. Photo: Colm Kelly
St.Vincent. Photo: Colm Kelly

In the Olympia Theatre in Dublin city last Saturday, a performance from the indie-rock artist St Vincent took place. But for Annie Clark, the woman behind the name, a performance was not the norm.

St Vincent's previous three albums of highly regarded, ambitiously arranged and dense music were eclipsed by the release last week of her fourth, and self-titled album.

The songs are imbued with a funk-rock stomp and boisterous, accessible arrangements. In the press photo accompanying the album's release, Clark appeared on a throne with a shock of white hair. It was the first sign that something had deliberately changed.

On stage last Saturday night, that dramatic transformation was clear. Clark was now a performer, as well as a brilliant musician. The considered choreography she employed for the audience was subtle but hugely effective.

Whether it was the way she put on her guitar, the stance she took to deliver a guitar solo, some marionette movements in sync with her fellow guitarist, or slithering down some stacked steps during the outro of one song, as the lighting blinks her into oblivion, Clark performed like never before.

It's always refreshing to see progress in a musician you admire. Clark's previous visits to Ireland have seen her appear solo or with a standard band. In the last visit to the capital as St Vincent, lighting was the obvious and effective difference.

Last year, Clark partnered with David Byrne and their stage show at Electric Picnic featured similar consideration for choreographed movements that helped many call it one of the gigs of the year.

There's no doubt that the influence of Byrne has rubbed off in Clark's new guise. Her new fearless performer self flaunts control and a glowing prowess.

When pop singers like Beyoncé perform at a show it's expected. But non-pop artists, especially alternative indie-rock musicians rarely actually "perform". Things change when stadiums come into play: the excessive stage legacy of U2 looms large in that arena but on a smaller level, where the audience connection is much closer, these graceful movements make a big difference.

Clark's inspirational performance shows musicians that you don't have to employ actual fireworks to make fireworks happen on stage.

Day & Night

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