St. Vincent at House of Blues, 3/10/2014
There's a fine line between eccentric and creepy. Luckily, St. Vincent has the kind of preternatural grace that makes negotiating such a tricky threshold as easy as hopping over little puddles on the sidewalk. Every so often, though...
Just kidding. The indie singer-songwriter once known as Annie Clark is one of the most ostentatious artists to emerge in the 2010s (though her debut, Marry Me, dates to 2007), certainly from Texas. We hate to do it, but whatever Dallas did to produce such an idiosyncratic creature, it deserves full credit.
In concert she comes across as either an android or a doll, depending on the song, not quite human but amazingly lifelike. But her voice is emotionally naked, full of expression and sometimes real hurt, especially compared to all the computer-generated sounds and outright noise around her. St. Vincent has obvious ancestors -- PJ Harvey, Bjork, Annie Lennox, Sinead O'Connor every so often -- but within the wide taxonomy of contemporary pop, there's no one even remotely like her.
Monday night at House of Blues, in a room that was audibly buzzing the way Houston venues only do when it's SXSW week (never could figure that out), St. Vincent and her three bandmates played a 90-minute set built around bold contrasts, the mechanistic robo-funk of the rhythm section versus the overwhelming omnichords of the synthesizers or the shards of post-punk guitar versus that delicate little dance she kept doing that fell somewhere between a sidestep and a soft-shoe.
The show opened with a computerized voice (think of the one in Radiohead's "Fitter, Happier") advising the audience to "please refrain from digitally capturing your experience." Somewhat ironic considering this is the "Digital Witness" tour, behind St. Vincent's eponymous fourth album, but outside one jackass the crowd complied, and the lack of a sickly LED pall over the room did help enhance the numerous strobe-lit and laser-guided effects.
Review continues on the next page.