St. Vincent

ARTS, Music

Annie Clark and Daniel Hart at the Pacific Blue Festival Club
New Zealand International Arts Festival, Wellington | March 18

The word-on-the-street was that Annie Clark, the American multi-instramentalist who performs under the moniker St. Vincent, would be captivating. Clark, and her sole accompaniment Daniel Hart, did not disappoint. The performance was suitably varied and enchanting. Drawing from both St. Vincent’s debut album Marry Me (2007) and the recently released Actor, the set list was a robust combination of St. Vincent’s best material. And then there was her.

St. Vincent plays mostly pretty, melodic music, with dashes of obscurity and eccentricity. The show started off simply. Annie Clark, with her delicate frame, fair skin and curly hair, did not appear to arrive on-stage with any presumptions. She, her electric guitar, and Daniel Hart with his violin, came on stage and humbly began the first score, ‘The Strangers’, the song fleshed out with a backing track. Her velvety voice was controlled and focused, a pleasant contrast to her electric guitar.

A few songs in, Ms Clark’s guitar string broke, and the audience got the first of many short bursts of candid stage banter. She was decidedly charming. She talked about her recent ‘vac-Asian’ in Asia, and about an eccentric New Yorker who requested that her home be redecorated, ‘just the same but brand new’ and inspired St. Vincent to title a song in honour of the concept.

The show carried on with dramatic, multi-dimensional songs that would be truly magnificent with the addition of a full band or orchestra. A handful of earlier, less complex songs from Marry Me were interlaced into the more robust scores of Actor, for a wonderfully varied show. There were a string of amusing anecdotes and comments from Ms Clark, after her cup of tea vibrated off its amplifier and splashed to the stage floor.  A surprise solo rendition of The Beatles’ ‘Dig a Pony’ offered a brief, intriguing peek into a more playful and rock‘n’roll St. Vincent that appears to be lurking quite close to the surface.

Other highlights included ‘Marrow’, when Annie Clark and Daniel Hart both donned electric guitars, a surprising conversation about the morals of Twilight: New Moon, and the occasional end of song jams that were somehow effortlessly nestled into the beautiful, melancholy sounds that define St. Vincent.