“Personality goes a long way,” once mused Jules Winnfield in “Pulp Fiction.”
So it goes that a double act contained a lot of this at Tuesday’s Orpheum Theatre concert.
As such, the opening act for the show, Brooklyn experimental guitarist Sarah Lipstate, performing under the moniker “Noveller,” had the difficult job of preceding the act people arrived to see. Yet, as the opener for main act St. Vincent, she fit in nicely with the evening of strong divergent personalities.
Noveller entered the stage with little fanfare and carried herself as if she was a roadie setting up for the opening act, rather than the actual opening act. Despite this, the guitarist’s music spoke for itself, with lyric-less songs that featured enigmatic names, such as “No Dreams” and long discordant guitar riffs that filled ambient noise and echoes.
Although she didn’t receive the continuous applause that would define the subsequent show, her performance provided a spectacle to behold, especially whenever the chrome parts of her guitar cast light refractions onto parts of the audience.
With a single spotlight cast down onto her, Noveller played a captivating set, in spite of a somewhat removed audience. In short, she was fitting for someone set to start off the night for St. Vincent.
When Annie Clark released her first album in 2007, she was undeniably a sharp lyricist, whose words carried a dark underbelly to them.
Now on her fifth studio album, self-titled “St. Vincent,” the veteran artist clearly took pleasure in producing more chic, pop-infused work and the opportunity to take it on the road.
Such was the case, when she opened with her first track from the new album, “Rattlesnake,” a song about the time when Clark secluded herself in the desert while visiting friends in Texas.
On a meta-level it’s indeed interesting to hear the artist St. Vincent cover the songs of Annie Clark, who, of course, are the same person. Clark’s performance at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix plays very much as an extended character piece, right down to her gray hair and set design. It was a detail in which she reveled.
On “Marrow,” set lights engulfed the stage in a blood red hue, and Clark rocked her head back and forth during one of the night’s many awesome guitar riffs, exposing how freewheeling her new longer curly hair is.
If there is one thing that Annie Clark and St. Vincent share, they both play a mean electric guitar. Clark’s solo career is not even a decade old, and already she has cemented an unbeatable reputation as one of the finest female guitarists of music today.
The artist repeatedly reminded the audience of this — as if they needed any reminding — when she effortlessly recreated her sublime guitar work on “Surgeon.” She somehow pantomimes the sounds of an old school arcade by simply slingshotting her hand up and down guitar strings.
Other moments where she triumphed on stage occurred at about the halfway mark of the show, when she played empowerment anthem “Cheerleader.” St. Vincent played the song atop a pink riser thus completing the metaphor. She delivered the knockout with it’s signature line, “I-I-I-I don’t want to be a cheerleader no more / I-I-I-I don’t want to be a dirt-eater no more.”
If there was one overt flaw in the show, it was that the audience saw too little of Annie Clark, the musician, and more of St. Vincent, the performer. When she returned for the encore, standing atop the riser, she let slip that, “Apparently, we’ve reached the sculpture part of the show.” Clark has always been a slightly elusive figure, though she’s a fun personality to have on stage.
But, who cares? It’s Annie Clark, and we pretty much allow her to do whatever she feels like. Even if it means we have to stand for two hours.
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