Concert Review: St. Vincent, Sydney Opera House (May 25th, 2014)

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing indie rock musician, St. Vincent (real name Annie Clark) in concert. I’ve been a fan of St. Vincent’s music for about five years now (it was love-at-first listen after hearing her song with Bon Iver, “Rosyln”in 2009), so when she announced that she was coming to Sydney this May, I bought tickets the moment they went on sale. St. Vincent is one of several acts performing as part of Sydney’s annual Vivid Festival- a two-week long festival in the city which celebrates music, art and ideas.

The concert was at Sydney’s famous Opera House, and it was actually my first time seeing a concert (or even being inside) of the theatre. Obviously, the Opera House is impressive to look at from the outside, but the inside is just as beautiful, with panoramic views of the Sydney Harbour from every where you look.

On the way into the theatre, there were warning signs posted that said St. Vincent’s show contains “strobe lighting and haze”, which I found pretty funny. Anyway, the show started just after 8pm, with no supporting act. St. Vincent was backed only by a backup-singer/guitarist, a keyboardist and drummer, and her stage set was very sparse: just a platform with stairs and the musicians. The set is done in a monochrome theme, with everything starkly black or white. Originally, I didn’t “get” why Clark dyed her hair that shocking grey colour, but seeing her on stage last night, the colour made sense with the stage set and it was actually lended towards a cohesive visual presentation. I had seats in the upper balcony, which was perfect, as I was sitting directly centre and the elevated seats gave me a full view of the stage.

I can only really explain last night’s show by saying it was one of the weirdest concerts I’ve ever been to and also one of the most wonderful. Annie Clark is a mesmerizing performer, and I couldn’t take my eyes off her during the entire night. She sounds amazing live (perhaps even better than she does on recordings!), and she’s such an animated performer. There was lots of dancing and thrashing on the stage, and at different points of the night she collapsed on the ground, arched her back, slid down the steps and still managed to sing the notes with perfect clarity! She’s also an amazing guitarist, which she proved with several lengthy electric guitar solos.

She mostly performed songs from her newest self-titled album, “St. Vincent.” The show opened with the electrifying number, “Rattlesnake” as well as the two lively numbers she just performed on Saturday Night Live last weekend, “Digital Witness” and “Birth in Reverse.” My favourite of the newest songs is “Huey Newton”; while I love the studio version with its heavy percussion, electronic blips and beeps, I have to admit the live version was even more thrilling, especially with an extended electric guitar solo. I was a bit disappointed that not as many of her older songs got played; she performed a few of the numbers from 2011’s “Strange Mercy” album, but only one song each from “Actor” and “Marry Me.” Furthermore, I was sincerely hoping she’d play my favourite song of hers, “Black Rainbow” (from the Actor album), but no such luck.

Still, the highlight of the entire night was the encore performance, when Clark returned to the stage after several long minutes (in which the weaker audience members actually left, while the rest of us clapped on hoping for an encore) in a new outfit, stood atop the platform alone with just her guitar and belted out a hauntingly beautiful rendition of the song “Strange Mercy.” You’ve could’ve heard a pin drop in the audience; all of us were stunned into silence by the beauty of the moment and it was the perfect follow up to what was otherwise, a very loud, energetic concert. With the flashing strobe lights, vocoder and electronic music stripped away, it was a perfect, intimate ending to a fantastic show and a wonderful night.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHPUz1DEY6o]
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