St. Vincent - O2 Academy, Leeds

by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date:
St Vincent - 02 Academy, Leeds
St Vincent - 02 Academy, Leeds

Nothing like a little Masseduction on an otherwise quiet Tuesday night. Playing the O2 in Leeds as one of only 3 UK headline shows, tonight’s St Vincent gig feels like something of an event before Annie Clark has even played a note. A lot has changed since she first appeared with 2007’s Marry Me LP, Clark’s music transforming and evolving with every new release. Last year’s Masseduction may just be her boldest statement yet; a day-glow apocalypse of suitably seductive, dangerously danceable future-pop.

The queue outside the O2 stretches around the corner and up the street and there’s a real buzz in the air about tonight’s performance. Once inside it’s down to local activists-come-DJ’s Girl Gang to build the anticipation even higher.

Despite not being a band or traditional support act it feels pretty ideal to have them on the bill, describing themselves as a network for “supporting the work of women and non-binary people” while encouraging “ friendship, collaboration, strength, and creativity”. With a mighty fine mix of indie cool and prime cheese, Girl Gang get the party started in style. Plus, who doesn’t love Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody?’

Finally, the lights go down and St Vincent walks out to huge cheers. She owns the stage from the moment she steps out; pink knee-high boots, latex superhero getup and an assortment of brightly coloured guitars waiting in the wings. Clark has clearly been beamed down from the same strange and wonderful world that David Bowie came from.

The band look pretty otherworldly too with drummer Matt Johnson and keyboardist Daniel Mintseris both wearing grey masks that completely cover their heads (much like those in Jonathan Bree’s music videos, check it out pop fans!). Multi-instrumentalist and backing vocalist Toko Yasuda completes the line-up. The four-piece make a formidable band, a well-oiled futuristic funk machine with riffs to spare.

The row of lights behind the band fire up and they launch into the thrilling electro-rush of ‘Sugarboy’ with its euphoric, rabblerousing calls of “Boys! Girls!” This then slides straight into the cerebral pulsating-pop of ‘Los Ageless’ and the irresistible, almost Prince-like lust funk of ‘Masseduction’. It’s a hell-of-away to start a show, Clark introducing herself as she says, “Hello Leeds! Tonight everybody; let's fight the power!”

While the songs revolve around dancefloor rhythms, Clark’s snarling guitar and waves of electro-pop sheen the lyrics sometimes hint at something much more personal as she sings on ‘Los Ageless’, “how can anybody have you and lose you and not lose their minds, too?” The songs are big, bold and infused with sex, sadness, jubilation, and longing. This is how pop music could be. This is how pop music should be.

‘Digital Witness’ remains a ridiculously brilliant party-starter while the likes of ‘Cruel’, ‘Year of the Tiger’ and ‘Cheerleader’ sound huge and confident; remaining some of Clark’s finest songs. All the while projections are shot onto the screen behind the band; a mixture of bright, fun and distinctly arty imagery that sees Clark go through a number of striking transformations. The visuals provide the ideal accompaniment, helping to create the sense that you’re watching a real show unfold.

“The next one” Clark begins “is for all the girls, all the boys, all the gender non-conforming, anyone who’s ever felt like a freak!” It’s then that the glorious ‘Slow Disco’ starts up; a huge and hopeful anthem that seems to fill up every square inch of the O2. All performers hope to bring an audience together when they play and that’s exactly what Clark has managed to do.

The gorgeous ‘New York’ provides a quieter moment of intimacy with some of the crowd singing along (Clark looking genuinely chuffed as she describes it as a “kumbaya moment”). The heart-breaking ‘Happy Birthday, Johnny’ with just Clarks voice and piano accompaniment is probably the closest I’ve come to shedding a tear at a gig while a solo ‘Prince Johnny’ wraps things up in suitably intimate style.

To say St Vincent was on form tonight would be the understatement of the year. I’ve got plenty of exciting gigs lined-up for the remainder of 2018 but I doubt I’ll see anything quite like tonight’s show.

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