St Vincent, Stereo, Glasgow, Tue 15 Nov 2011 (5 stars)

St Vincent, Stereo, Glasgow, Tue 15 Nov 2011

Thrillingly eclectic live set from the American musician

St Vincent (okay, Annie Clark if you must), looks good lit from behind, her curls silhouette into an entirely appropriate halo-effect as the first angelic vocals hit an absolutely rammed Stereo. It's a set almost entirely taken from new album Strange Mercy, with only two singles (2009's 'Actor Out Of Work' and current 'Cruel') as a sop to casual fans, but by creating an thrillingly intense live experience, she makes that potential lack of familiarity work for her.

On record, what intrigues about St. Vincent is the juxtaposition of her honeyed voice, ink-black lyrics and unpredictable instrumentation that ranges from baroque pop to crazed, fuzzy distortion. Live, you're also there for a cracking display of musicianship. That voice still soars, crystalline, over everything, every lyric distinct even as the three-strong band create walls of distorted sound behind her, but what you can't tell from the albums is just how good a lead guitarist she is.

In her hands, the guitar produces whoops and alien screams, then revs up like a chainsaw on the new album's menacing 'Neutered Fruit' before she soothes it, coaxes gliding, harp-like ripples from it (an audible swoon emitting from Stereo's massed hoardes of fanboys as she does). The set weaves from ethereal to something approaching live techno, and there's even a frenzied theremin solo, in a possible tip of the hat to another great chameleon artist, Alison Goldfrapp (Clark plays hers with fingers rather than thighs, though). However, where Goldfrapp uses costume and makeup to aid her shapeshifting, St Vincent's transformations are rooted in the music. As each song demands, she channels cocksure, Marc Bolan swagger, Kate Bush's wilder extremities, or even the high-flying intensity of Hendrix, still pulling off something utterly unique and dramatically different from what we'd heard five minutes before. And that's before we get to her feral, rock-brat cover of The Pop Group's 'She Is Beyond Good And Evil', too.

All this, crammed into a set where absolutely nothing has been skimped on, and performed whilst wearing high-waisted leather shorts in Stereo's sweatbox basement. Annie Clark works hard for your pleasure. On the encore, with the flick of a wrist she becomes a 1940s chanteuse for a gorgeously spare, stripped-back take on 'The Party', then, strapped back into her guitar for a version of 'Your Lips Are Red' maxed-out with crunchy, hair metal chords, leaps into the crowd as though possessed by her own solo. Then she leaves her audience, dizzied, rocked, and dribbling. And not just the fanboys this time.

St Vincent - Your Lips Are Red @ Festival de Dour 2009

St. Vincent - 'Cruel'

St. Vincent

Sublime sounds from the Kate Bush-like St Vincent, aka former Polyphonic Spree/Sufjan Stevens guitarist Annie Clark.

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