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St. Vincent - Hammersmith Apollo - Feb 2012

Posted 28 Feb 2012 by Pete

I've seen Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) perform once before, a few years back. She was casually dressed, performing solo and considering her name, it was suitably held in a church. From the second St. Vincent appears on the stage of the Shepherd's Bush Empire, it's apparent that she has undergone a transformation that's anything but saintly.

The change can clearly be seen by taking a look at the front covers of her last two albums. Actor, released in 2009, shows a portrait shot of Annie Clark looking innocently into the distance against a colourful orange background. Compare that to her latest release, Strange Mercy, in which the cover depicts a screaming mouth covered by a latex-style material, you are given a strong hint of what to expect from the show.

Wearing leather and backed by a sharply dressed band the scene was most definitely set and the transformation carried out perfectly without seeming at all forced.

It wasn't just an incredibly slick show; there was considerable substance to it as well. The night consisted predominantly of songs from Strange Mercy and although a fantastic record anyway, when performed live, the songs seemed to be taken to the next level. Musically, the band was spot on and Clark's voice cut through beautifully. With such a high standard of performance on the night; it's difficult to pick out certain songs, however the tone of the night was set with a cover of She Is Beyond Good and Evil by the late-70s post-punk band The Pop Group. Coming towards the end of the night, the fast-paced, aggressive cover cemented the tone for the evening.

There were definite nods to the stadium rock nature of St. Vincent's new image complete with stage diving, strobe lighting, two bass drums and front of stage and up on drum kit guitar solos.

The night felt like a show as opposed to just a plain and simple gig. It was a visceral and convincing performance and although it's difficult to believe there wasn't careful planning behind it, it also managed to seem instinctive.

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