Concert Diaries: St. Vincent @ the National 6/3/15

 Image via @seoul_less

Image via @seoul_less

by Shannon Jay

Walking in, I knew the night was gonna be great. My being surrounded by good company & little sobriety weren’t the only outliners - I saw Annie Clark on tour for Strange Mercy with some friends a few years prior. I was graced with their presence once again to watch Annie perform.

However, this was no similar experience, in the best way. the great thing about Clark is her inability to stay the same; not so much changing but evolving, not so much better but different. With every album she brings a new twist, and with every tour a new energy, confidence and persona.

The show began with Sarah Neufeld from Arcade Fire. Her dreamy violin melodies were a delight to watch from the balcony of the National. The acoustics were appreciated, high ceilings bouncing the melodies of Neufeld’s strings.

Clark emerged in a shiny and tight leather jumpsuit that complimented all of her guitar switches - whether it be a classic black-and-white or seafoam green axe. This is not the Annie that toured with Sufjan Stevens and released albums named inspired by lines from Arrested Development.

After her Grammy win, she’s taking center stage and making a name for herself. The release of St. Vincent’s self-titled made a bolder statement than any of Clark’s other overall obscure rock albums. While critical darlings, none of her previous records cemented her as a bonafied rockstar.

Strobe lights and beams of bright purples, yellows and blues were perfectly disorienting following Annie’s sonic distortions. Carefully placed lighting cast a shadow on Clark and her bandmates faces, which flashed back and forth and created a trippy visual effect.

What all of us feared in the days leading up to the concert were if Clark would even been well enough to play. Suffering a speaker-climbing malfunction days before, the crowd was questioning if she was okay, much less if she would attempt it again. Shocking everyone, Clark scaled the sound system again, continuing a long string of badassery that was constant throughout the night.

Clark was more theatrical this time around. For “The Party,” she disappeared from a dark stage and, as the lights rose, she emerged from sidestage, sprawled on a stretcher. She made breaks in between songs a storytelling session.

One tale outlined an experience with a Virginia Storm; much different, Clark pointed out, than a Virginia Slim. Impending doom, Annie recalls running into her closet and clutching the first things she finds that are dear to her heart; one of them is the new D’Angelo record. When the story is finished, the stage turns black and Clark proceeds to melt our faces once more with her sheer star power.

I remember these quirky little stories last time, but this time the way it was presented felt less like small talk, her tales now felt more constructed, each story adding a dramatic flair to the gaps between tracks.

She eloquently and gratefully gave her backup band a heartfelt introduction. Her bassist, Toko Yasuda, needed no introduction; the whole audience took note of her slaying alongside Clark on guitar. Yasuda and Clark carried an electrifying chemistry on stage.

She dedicated her show to all the goth kids, or those even slightly and generally strange. As an inherit rockstar who clearly fits in no perfectly shaped box, Clark’s empathy with her audience is made clear through her flamboyant stage antics and alluring, over-the-top but just right performance pieces.