The theater was still shuttered at door time with a line that stretched around the block lined with fans anxious to see a recently announced intimate St. Vincent show. When the doors finally opened no one really knew what to expect. The crowd slowly shuffled onto the ornate Belasco Theater. Inside it felt smaller than normal with what seemed like only 20 rows of chairs and a whole lot of TV cameras. St. Vincent would later describe it as a Candid Camera version of VH-1 story tellers. Almost an hour later as the crowd was growing and everyone was begining to wonder what was happening, Bobcat Goldthwait took the stage. He stated he was directing the show and gave the audience some basic directions like “don’t look directly at a camera lens” because he would never cut to something so weird. The small audience was asked not to record or take photographs but to be present and use their “brain cameras.” Bobcat joked that most of the audience wasn’t born when he was relevant but that he was big in the 80’s which brought to mind the recent supreme court headlines and he added “Can we all agree to not call Kavanaugh anything but a rapist,” that would not be the last time the scandalous nominee would be referenced that evening. After a few more amusing anecdotes like directing an unflattering filming of Nickleback on Jimmy Kimmel and a bit of stand up involving Jeffrey Dahmer, Goldthwait announced the show would be starting in a few minutes and when it does everyone should stand and clap. It seems like a lot of direction but there was still a feeling of not knowing what to expect.
St Vincent, aka Annie Clark, took the stage with long time friend and her soul accompanist for the evening, pianist Thomas Bartlett. She was dressed in a black velvet blazer a la Judy Garland with a satin collar and glittery silver boots and not much else. Her black chin length hair was slicked back and her make up was reminiscent of a 20’s starlette. She opened with “Hang on Me” after which she thanked everyone for being there and mused that she had never had so many thoughts about Jeffrey Dahmer before walking on stage which she transitioned into introducing Thomas who she joked had never killed anyone. Their ten-year friendship was on display as the two teased each other lovingly the rest of the evening. She confessed she was charmed by him (perhaps why she had no pants) on first meeting him because he told her that he knew that they would sleep together someday and then be the best of friends. Back to Dahmer who came up regularly the rest of the evening she announced “Savior.”
Bartlett plays piano as if the instrument is stealing his soul through his finger tips. Contorted and unconventional he plays both the outside and its insides by strumming its strings like a harp and beats on it as a kick drum. He twisted out the song “Masseducation” after which St. Vincent admitted she almost bit it on stage “I almost ate shit…Its so wonderful to take pleasure in your own shame” and that explains a lot of her sad beautiful songs so many she discovered were in the depressing key of B flat. Through out the night she took moments to express her dry dark humor telling stories of song origins like mötley cruise ships from Sweden to Poland where she was inspired to write “Smoking Section” and how her younger brother once asked her about how their beloved family dog Molly died, asking before she could decide how much joy she could take from disillusioning the child, “did she die on the cross like Jesus?” She answered “yeah.” She also lovingly reprimanded the audience for their slow poke vibe getting to their seats which gave her and Thomas an extra hour of tequila drinking which she explained might be upsetting the delicate balance of an Eco system between her and Thomas but in some ways was more fun. She continued on her journey of sad songs but always lightened things up like trying to decide what her style of mic holding was after she realized she held her pinky somewhere between a snob and a “flaccid shrimp scampi” so she toughened her look wrapping her elbow in her mic cord Rollins-style (from Black Flag) and spitting behind her adding “send me the cleaning bill for the floor-it smells like tequila.” She admitted “Slow Disco” was an idea grifted from Prince’s Wendy and Lisa whom she befriended playing a Ted X talk.
When all was said and done the duo had covered about 15 songs when Thomas marked the end of the show by getting up and hugging Annie. The two came back for an encore after a standing ovation. Annie thanked everyone for coming to the Standford prison experiment adding “but Im not fucking fake” and it also being a “Sartre like fucking play” and then slid into her final song of the evening “New York” and just like that the show was over and everyone sauntered into the night being handed a personal letter from Annie at the door.
Catch St. Vincent live at the Hollywood Palladium on October 29!
Words: Kimberly Zsebe of ZB Images