On October 2 at the Belasco Theater, like before a taping in front of a live studio audience, Annie Clark was introduced: “Ladies and gentlemen, St. Vincent.” People stood and applauded probably in a way to show respects, but also because the show was being filmed. This evening was a bit different from a typical St. Vincent show. Anyone that has seen her knows very well her impeccable guitar talents, but there were no guitars that night. Instead, the Belasco provided an intimate setting for a crowd in fold-out chairs. And though a St. Vincent show, it seemed more like an Annie Clark show whereby she played stripped St. Vincent songs. This may have been because she was accompanied only by Thomas Bartlett, her friend of approximately 10 years, on a piano.
In front of a grand, cascading red curtain and illuminated by fairly simple lighting, Clark began with “Hang on Me” from her most recent album, Masseduction. In fact, 12 of the songs in the set would be from the 2017 album. Like her piano partner, Clark wore all black. However, instead of pants and a t-shirt, she wore an understated cabaret-like outfit, her dark hair slicked to the sides. She had no mic stand, only a cord to occasionally swing or wrap around her hand.
Before continuing with “Savior,” Clark told a story from early in her friendship with Bartlett. She explained he told her that “like I know we’ll sleep together someday and be best friends.” She found it charming. And throughout much of the set, she teased Bartlett in only the way very good friends can. Nevertheless, among the teasing were compliments. At one point, she said she found her place in New York because of Bartlett: “I just have to thank him because he introduced me to so many downtown freaks.”
Despite the heaviness of the songs, with admitted depressing subjects and a pinging, swelling piano, Clark consistently kept spirits high with witty banter and detailed song introductions. For “Cheerleader,” she quipped, “I guess we just keep playing songs… The next song, it feels sort of timely. I think there’s a new Bring It On 4. Not for any other reason.” In moving into “Los Ageless,” she noted, “This one’s perfectly for you. All of you.” Clark really dove into dark humor. She told a story of having to answer her little brother how their family dog died. Slightly off-topic, Clark declared dogs are for emotional needs and that it is unnecessary to have a very smart dog: “What do you guys want? A fucking scholar?” She eventually reached the story climax–that her brother wondered if the dog died on the cross like Jesus. This segued into “I Prefer Your Love,” from 2014’s St. Vincent.
Such stories balanced the effect the songs could have, whether a moment of an inflating piano sound or her exposed soprano. Perhaps the most interesting story of the night came at the end when Clark went through various mini-plots to explain the name of “Slow Disco.” One day she texted Wendy Melvoin of The Revolution, asking what she was working on. “I’m working on some slow discos,” Melvoin replied. Clark knew she would one day have to use “slow disco” in a song. She and Bartlett then performed the third manifestation of the song. Before, it had come as “Slow Disco,” a more dramatic, but still slow rendition on Masseduction. This year, she released “Slow Fast Disco,” a sped up, groovier version. And now came the piano rendition.
Clark and Bartlett left the stage for a moment and returned for, as Clark denoted, “the nemesis song.” She was, of course, referring to “New York.” Though the encore was just one song, the audience was in for a surprise upon exit. Letters being handed out announced a new album, MassEducation, due October 12. The album will be a reimagining of Masseduction, which she recorded with Bartlett. As the letter explains, she and Bartlett recorded each song two or three times and chose whichever take was best for the album: “It was fast. Intuitive. Discovered. Raw.” Much like the night at the Belasco, as Clark wrote, the album is “two dear friends playing songs together with the kind of secret understanding one can only get through endless nights in New York City.”
- Hang on Me
- Fear the Future
- Smoking Section
- Los Ageless
- Prince Johnny
- The Bed
- Young Lover
- I Prefer Your Love
- Happy Birthday, Johnny
- Court and Spark (Joni Mitchell cover)
- Slow Disco
- New York
Photo Credit: Owen Ela