Electric Picnic review: St Vincent – Impressively out there

Annie Clark swings between euphoria and melancholy in a memorable performance

St Vincent: imperious in orange PVC, Annie Clark manipulates a selection of primary-colour guitars with demonic zest. Photograph: Dave Meehan

St Vincent: imperious in orange PVC, Annie Clark manipulates a selection of primary-colour guitars with demonic zest. Photograph: Dave Meehan

 

ST VINCENT

Electric Arena
The final curtain beckons at Electric Picnic 2018, but there’s still time for an impressively out-there performance from Annie Clark, aka the one-woman avant-pop uprising St Vincent.

Clark received something of a critical pummelling for the high-concept, high-pretension tour that passed through the Olympia Theatre in Dublin last year. The gripe was that, in playing alone and presenting her repertoire chronologically, she was sucking all of the fun out of her music. Whether or not the criticism stung, she has given her set a robo-pop makeover: her Electric Arena slot features a live-wire bassist and guitarist-and-drummer wearing burlap masks.

The emphasis is on is Masseduction, the frosty freak-pop record inspired, it is rumoured, by her split from the model and actor Cara Delevingne. The framing, however, is pure dystopia, banks of flashing lights casting the musicians in an icy glare.

Imperious in orange PVC – well, what else? – Clark manipulates a selection of primary-colour guitars with demonic zest as weird videos unspool in the background. In one she dons strap-on breasts and regards a diamond through a magnifying glass. With luck this is a metaphor for something rather than an insight into how she spends her weekends.

The music is, thankfully, more straightforward. Clark wears a chilly snarl zipping through Los Ageless and Digital Witness, and throws sad mannequin poses on Rattlesnake, a cosmic chugger that recalls a real-life incident in which she larked in the nude in a discreet corner of her native Texas. There isn’t much banter, although we get a surprise mic drop when she knocks her microphone out of its stand.

During her high-NRG ballad New York, meanwhile, she starts with an improvised line about St Stephen’s Green (presumably lacking any Laois landmarks to namecheck).

Sunday night at a festival can be bitter-sweet, the audience alternately disappointed the good times are ending and looking forward to sleeping under a roof again. St Vincent captures the moment perfectly in a turn that swings between euphoria and melancholy, leaving us with a departing Picnic memory to treasure.

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