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Concert review: St. Vincent performance a collective dream

St. Vincent performed on Oct. 1 at The Newport in Columbus. Credit: Courtesy of Shore Fire Media

St. Vincent performed on Oct. 1 at The Newport in Columbus.
Credit: Courtesy of Shore Fire Media

As the lights dimmed, the crowd ignited into applause for the long-anticipated indie darling.

Enter St. Vincent — whose real name is Annie Clark. The vocalist and guitarist is accompanied by Toko Yasuda (keyboard, guitar, backup vocals), Pete Dyer (keyboard) and Matt Johnson (drums), who took their respective places on stage as the beat for “Rattlesnake,” the opener on Clark’s latest self-titled record, began.

Clark blinked and stared into the audience doll-like, moving and dancing as if she were puppeteered. Her very presence on stage was enchanting and ethereal, her contagious joy shining in her wild grin.

Clark dove right into her set, shredding through three songs before she finally addressed the crowd for the first time.

“Welcome, freaks of Columbus!” Clark’s voice rang with a broad smile and outstretched arms.

For fans of St. Vincent, this performance could only have exceeded far beyond what were already high expectations. The essence and core of the songs from her records were maintained, but executed as if each was its own separate entity. Every song would eventually dissolve into chaos, usually with her three bandmates hunched over their instruments and Clark writhing on the floor.

Because the band was so tight and well-rehearsed, even in these moments, the songs never actually fell apart as they reached a peak of electrifying energy. The show was a spectacle to behold between the stage lights, Clark’s graceful and sporadic movements and the eerie synchronization of the four band members. There were even times when Clark and Yasuda would both be on guitar, mirroring each other’s every move.

The set list weighed mostly on St. Vincent’s more shred-worthy numbers, with crowd favorites such as “Cruel,” “Surgeon,” “Birth in Reverse” and her terrifyingly high-energy closer “Krokodil.” All of this was then beautifully juxtaposed with her first song in the encore — “Strange Mercy” — as Clark stood alone on her platform with just her guitar, performing a heart-wrenching dressed-down version of the title ballad off her third album.

St. Vincent was an experience, not just a concert. It was as if the audience had a collective dream.

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