Rarely does a Grammy Museum presentation of a Q&A and a performance feel like two different people are contained within a single person. Thursday night, Annie Clark eloquently and gracefully explained her history and art, creative process, upbringing in Dallas and the influence of everything from Raymond Carver short stories to Jimi Hendrix to Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Minutes after Clark finished her 20-minute Q&A with Grammy Museum executive director Bob Santelli, Clark transformed into St. Vincent for a riveting performance of eight songs from her current self-titled Loma Vista/Republic. Complete with choreography and strobe lights, St. Vincent delivered a passionate and focused performance that took several of her compositions – "Prince Johnny" and "Bring Me Your Loves" in particular – beyond their recorded versions.
She made good on the "groove element" she spoke about in the interview to "make a party record you could play at a funeral. The criteria was that it can't just have a skeletal system. It has to have a human heart."
Within the eight songs performed, Clark and her three-piece band luxuriated in a meeting place of heady '70s new wave, prog rock and modern pop anthems, curving each influence to smash into the other rather than blend. Folk music influences the cadence of "Regret," for example, as it opens before jumping into a fire pit of rage; "Prince Johnny" relies on a military march and pop melodicism, which St. Vincent ravages with some intense guitar riffs that echo Robert Fripp.
She spoke about being something of a gear head, explaining her vocal processors and and affinity for her "Frankenstein" version of a 1955 Guild Aristocrat electric guitar that she played on two songs.
In explaining her songwriting process, she noted that, by and large, she approaches it as a job and starts each day at 10 and puts in the hours writing and recording. As for inspiration, she used two distinct examples: "Rattlesnake" was a true story – she really did run naked through a field in Texas and come across a rattler. "All I had to do was report the facts," she says of the album opener.
"Huey Newton," on the other hand, came after she took an Ambien in Helsinki and had "a very vivid hallucination where he was in my hotel room and we just understood each other."
St. Vincent's tour continues March 21 with a show at the Wiltern and continues with another 17 dates through April 15 before she heads to Europe to start a tour May 15 in Bristol, England.
Birth in Reverse
Every Tear Disappears
Bring Me Your Loves