Live Review: St Vincent

18 June 2018 | 2:40 pm | Ross Clelland

"She's unarguably sexy and sensual, yes, yet it was still more artistic than mere voyeurism - but are we in on the joke or not?"

More St Vincent More St Vincent

Annie Clark in her St Vincent guise is making pop music as performance art - her live show now a mix of technology and humanity, topped with a Day-Glo fantasy sexuality that's alluring, uncomfortable, and maybe mocking all at once.

The lights went down, a corner of the stage curtains opened and, all hot pink latex and matching thigh-boots, she was among us. The first part of this solo performance cherry-picked from her back catalogue as Clark played her guitar against a set of studio backing tracks. The awkward Marry Me, the angles of Digital Witness, and the gleefully blunt Birth In Reverse were all little set-pieces as the artist found spaces in the drapes, shadows, and lights of the stage. She was somehow both tiny and huge all at once. She exchanged one of her beautifully balanced self-designed guitars for another between almost every song. Even that simple act came with a twist - delivered by an anonymous masked roadie, or a Helmut Newton-esque S&M Valkyrie in buttock-baring pants. As you do.

But it didn't really fly until Act Two. A few moments of darkness and the whole stage was revealed: a cinema-sized video screen drenching this frayed industrial building with colour. And then it was slinky silver miniskirt and matching shiny ankle boots to deliver a track-by-track recital of her recent gloriously sprawling Masseduction album.

Each song came with a visual backdrop - sometimes revealing, sometimes ironic and sometimes just 'what the fuck?' surreal imagery. Clark teetered on her heels, shuffled, then splayed into full guitar hero pose and shredded, funked, howled and attacked her instrument. She's unarguably sexy and sensual, yes, yet it was still more artistic than mere voyeurism - but are we in on the joke or not?

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

There's layers in the songs: some real human heartbreak in Los Ageless - even as she sneered at the nip-and-tuck culture. Happy Birthday, Johnny was plaintive, the screen blank until the song's payoff line ''of course, I blame me...' was projected on it. Cut to black. It was mesmerising.

There was even some space for messing with some showbiz conventions. The melancholy beauty of New York first offered scatty jazz-style, with some "Hello, Springfield!"-type hokey Sydney references thrown in. St Vincent then stopped it and pulled it back into line as the aching keen of longing inspired a crowd clap-along like something rumbling up from the eponymous city's subway. Slow Disco came in its original, er, slow form. "Hope everyone has someone to love tonight," the suddenly vulnerable Clark offered. She appeared to mean it.

Smoking Section finished the new album and tonight's show. The curtains closed, the lights came on. Most everyone - including the scenester crowd - paused for a moment to get their breath back, then moved towards the doors.