Review: St. Vincent at The Olympia

Colin Gannon

Annie Clark tends not to bend the knee to convention. In her second of back-to-back sold out shows at the Olympia, she showcases her eccentricity and unloads a mammoth 90 minute set that examines the world through the eyes of her alter-ego, St. Vincent.

“There’s nowhere I’d rather be than here with you as the world burns,” she tells a feverish Dublin crowd.

Her anti-futurism art-pop is consciously futuristic in its scope and sound. It is almost the perfect place to reconcile the many different crises facing our planet – her latest album, Masseduction, is a measured exploration of sexuality, human fallibility, fame and social decay.

The first act of the night is a self-directed, self-written short movie titled ‘Birthday Party’ which serves as the perfect prelude to her music – equally sardonic, bold and eerie.

Stepping into the spotlight sporting pink thigh-high PVC boots and matching leotard, she commences the show with an endearing rendition of Marry Me. She sings in front of the Olympia’s famed velvet curtains sharply to the left of the stage.

The curtain creeps back measured distances between each of her opening five songs before a powerful performance of Strange Mercy hit Cruel alters the mood. The curtain then unveils the full stage and the slow-burning opening tracks seem like a distant past.

Her body language and positioning remain rigid. Less regimented are her soaring vocal performances and intricate guitar-play. Vigorous riffs are featured throughout, particularly as tracks reach their climactic finish.

The eccentric Clark opted to remove the traditional live band setting for this tour. Instead she performed the entire set atop a backing track.  Just her voice and an electric guitar breathe over equally abrasive and subtle electro-pop instrumentals.

She sifts through her musical career chronologically for the first half of the night while the second half sees her bring her latest album to life.

In between tracks she is warm and pensive. She speaks of her Irish heritage in humble terms and even speaks directly to her large LGBTQIA fan-base with her typically unapologetic wit: “Hello freaks and queers…hello others.”

Every track from Masseduction is performed in the intended album order. Masseduction’s title track and highlight Los Ageless see Clark at her fiercest. Tender ballads New York and Happy Birthday, Johnny are numbingly vulnerable.

Each stage position and song performance saw a premeditated but purposeful transition. Electric guitars are regularly changed between tracks, each more colourful than the last.

The show’s mechanical nature make it feel like theatrical production. Despite this, the meticulous attention-to-detail never affects Clark’s ability to imbue her performances with emotion and tragedy.

Her stage positioning, brightly coloured guitars, background visuals, lighting and energy all rotate between songs. This dynamism mirrors her career’s progression, a string of critically acclaimed experimental-pop releases which have garnered her a large cult following.

As she finishes her set with Masseduction closer Smoking Section, she sings the track’s refrain with great fervent: “It’s not the end”.

This sentiment lingers as the curtains inevitably close and it’s quite clear that the end is far-distant for Annie Clark, an artist at the peak of her creative powers.