All Eyes on St. Vincent

PBS concert staple becomes Masseducation platform

When Annie Clark, the Dallas native known to her flock as St. Vincent, visited the Moody in February, she performed alone. Since then, the singer’s mostly toured Masseduction, her fifth solo album, with nothing more than an electric guitar. For an Austin City Limits taping Monday, she returned with bassist/keyboardist Toko Yasuda and two faceless men.

Specifically, two faceless men on drums and keyboards. Like the rest of the group, Yasuda took the stage attired in beige, but her jumpsuit-clad comrades also sported white blond wigs fashioned in a bowl cut and beige face masks that obscured any facial features. A third faceless gentleman, this one dressed entirely in black and with a bowl cut wig to match, emerged as the show began, seemingly with the sole purpose of helping the ethereal Clark ascend an onstage platform.

St. Vincent, ACL Live at the Moody Theater, 5.14.18 (Courtesy of KLRU/Photo by Scott Newton)

The commentary wasn’t subtle, and neither were the bandleader’s fire red leotard and thigh-high orange boots. Still, the move to neuter any male presence from the performance seemed gauche if only for one reason: she doesn’t need any help making sure all eyes are on her.

Clark’s demonstrated that time and again as a solo act. Her setup through Masseduction’s the Fear the Future tour proved both subtle and powerful, utilizing both stage positioning and curtains to transform a person shredding over a backing track into a theatrical pursuit.

Downtown last night, a backing band lent her sound the heft she harnessed on the recorded material. Through the 90-minute taping, the threepiece behind her allowed Clark to venture into deeper cuts like face-melter “Marrow,” its rich textures brought to life through an arsenal of keys and the solid thump of a live bass line.

Conceptualizer back in her element, the slinky guitar line that carries “Los Ageless” now sprang to life in a whole new way. The six-string solo concluding “Pills” became almost Pink Floydian in its intensity. Armed with a slide, she unleashed a fury of guitar at the end of “Masseduction.”

All the while, the faceless man in black materialized to bring her a rainbow of guitars – blue, electric yellow, orange, black, and back to blue again – of her own design.

Confidence oozed out of every bend of a note. That found her launching “Slow Disco” for a second time without so much as a shrug following technical issues indiscernible to the audience. That assuredness brought Clark to her knees during “Rattlesnake,” notes of her own creation not only pummeling the full house as she thrashed her head and slung her axe, but commanding the stage with the same gravitas of many lesser (male) guitar gods before her.

Let the men remain faceless.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

St. Vincent, Annie Clark, Toko Yasuda, Pink Floyd, Austin City Limits

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