Words by Bill San Antonio | Photo by Joe Russo
It’s just after 9 p.m. outside in the muggy August heat at the Prospect Park Bandshell in Brooklyn, and St. Vincent is talking about freaks and Others and God, I think, and excuse me but it’s all a bit difficult to follow.
It is the only time St. Vincent addresses the crowd before the final bow of her loaded hour-and-a-half set to close out the 36th annual installment of the park’s Celebrate Brooklyn! initiative, that, well, does exactly that. But what she says is not nearly as important as what she’s doing.
That’s because the rest of the time, the singer-guitarist-performance artist born Anne Erin “Annie” Clark has more important things to consider than the 5,000 screaming hipsters who got to see her perform for free and took full advantage of the Bandshell’s $8 beers and (very) lax no-smoking policy.
Instead, St. Vincent was a mad scientist in the lab, testing the boundaries of all that is possible on an electric guitar in the 21st century – which is a bit unfair, because her music is not really of our time in the first place. Her riffs danced across all decades and genres of popular music, from James Brown-era rock n’ roll to early ’90s r&b, and grazed, ever so slightly, the electric craze that’s currently got this country in a vise.
It was all there Saturday, dressed in the guise of a glam-yet-grungy aesthetic as difficult to pin down as her frizzy silver hair, violently flopping atop her head with each face-melting guitar solo and strange, erotic choreography that started with simple hand gestures and head movements and later erupted with St. Vincent writhing around on a set of white stairs, all while strobe lights struggled to keep pace.
It is the space between these two poles, on one side guitar god and the other burlesque vixen, that St. Vincent has become perhaps the most dangerous live act in popular music today. You simply couldn’t have known what was to come next. Though logic would dictate she craft set lists around her 2014 self-titled L.P. – and she did, with past favorites sprinkled in for good measure – she brought a level of spontaneity in her soloing, slowly shimmering one moment and vigorously stabbing her fretboard the next, that gave the whole affair a feeling of helplessness comparable to a blindfolded roller coaster ride.
St. Vincent could have said anything in between those songs and it wouldn’t have mattered. She could have spoken German or barked like a dog. When she picked up her guitar and pressed her fingers to the strings, she very clearly had Brooklyn’s full attention.
TheWaster.com | BK