Annie Clark began her show biz career as a roadie and guitar tech to her aunt and uncle, jazz duo Tuck and Patti. While this stint took teenage Annie around the world, it was just the start of her musical career. She got schoolin’ for a few years at the Berklee College of Music, but soon realized that the completion of her education required forgetting all she learned to start making music. She further cut her teeth as a sidewoman with the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens as well as guitar number 49 in Glenn Branca’s 100 Guitar Orchestra (that number is a fabrication or at best, a guess).
Named after a line in the Nick Cave song There She Goes my Beautiful World, St. Vincent became Clark’s recording and performing moniker in 2006. 2007 debuted her album, Marry Me, which won positive reviews from hip listers, The AV Club and Pitchfork. Securing her status as an artist to watch, acclaimed albums, Actor and Strange Mercy followed. Insert into this timeline her collab with David Byrne on their experimental alt-brass album, Love This Giant. With her Grammy-winning, self-titled album in 2013, Annie went full art school. With this angular and immensely interesting album, Clark upped the thematic quality of her live show with various stage props and choreographed dance steps with bassist/vocalist Toko Yasuda. 2016 added film director and guitar designer to Annie Clark’s cv with her addition of The Birthday Party to the horror anthology XX and the release of the St. Vincent signature Ernie Ball Music Man guitar.
Catching St. Vincent up to date, Annie teased a new track, New York along with the announcement of a short tour in June 2017. Masseduction was released the following October. The album garnered praise as the tour continued to 2018. St. Vincent landed in Toronto at the Sony Centre on July 31.
The stage was built with 4 platforms for the players, each backlit by a wall of individual lights. Annie and Toko took the ones on the left. While keyboardist, Daniel Mintseris and drummer, Matt Johnson on the other side (wearing outfits of necktied worksuits and bowl-cut-wigged masks that can only be described as faceless 70s shop clerk drones). Annie made a slow saunter to her station as her band played Sugarboy. Following tracks, Los Ageless, the title track and Savior, rounded out a four pack of Masseduction songs. Following were versions of songs from her previous albums in reverse order, Huey Newton, Year of the Tiger and Marrow. Then, back to the Masseduction songs, almost all of which were played apart from Hang on Me and Dancing With A Ghost.
When Clark finally addressed the crowd in length, she introduced New York with a Toronto-centric adlib version mentioning Church St. before launching into the real one. After a brief breather offstage, Annie returned with a mellow good night three-song encore which included an absolutely gorgeous rendition of Smoking Section, followed by equally stirring versions of Happy Birthday, Johnny (accompanied only by Minteris) and Severed Crossed Fingers, which she played solo. She left the stage to roaring applause from an emotionally moved audience, proving that Toronto does indeed love St. Vincent.
With a heavily-staged show on this tour coupled with costumes and loose choreography, it’s easy to think that Clark is beginning to entirely choose form over function as she creates a world only of her own understanding. However, Annie was mask free when she spoke to the audience and the artifice of the show faded to reveal a personal connection at its core. Clark is a true modern artist who bobs and weaves between mediums to present St. Vincent. Delusion isn’t a part of her art. Annie Clark has remained true to her unique vision but never demanded her fans to walk in line. As she has famously stated and as she has acted in her advancement as an artist,
“Sell your own myth, but never buy it.”