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St. Vincent demonstrates colossal powers in one-woman show at the Uptown Theater

St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark)
St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark)

Annie Clark, the woman who performs as St. Vincent, donned apparel that looked more like the costume of a superhero than the stage clothes of a rock star in the first of two sets at the Uptown Theater on Sunday. The striking attire suited her.

An indie-rock superhero, Clark is dedicated to the heroic mission of saving a moribund music genre from toxic tedium with her extraordinary power of boundless creativity. About 1,500 grateful admirers witnessed her stunningly original display.

Born in Tulsa in 1982, Clark is one of very few indie-rock artists who have made consistently groundbreaking yet eminently listenable music during the past 10 years.

She’s yet to achieve a pop hit, a plight that she may have attempted to rectify with her fifth studio album “Masseduction.” Released in October, “Masseduction” shares the slick arena-scale approach that co-producer Jack Antonoff also applied to the latest efforts of Taylor Swift and Lorde.

Neither Antonoff nor any other musicians shared the stage with Clark in the one-woman show. Accompanied by backing tracks, she performed the entirely of “Masseduction” in the second set. The album’s theme of artifice was emphasized by the arresting videos that accompanied most selections.

Images of women in bandages associated with plastic surgery accentuated the dystopian dance track “Los Ageless.” During a jittery rendition of “Sugarboy,” the standard iconography used in advertising was subverted on the large video screens. “Pills,” an anxious repudiation of the pharmaceutical industry, was paired with footage of a claustrophobic photo shoot.

Not every song succeeded. “Savior,” a track rooted in Memphis soul, wilted. “Fear the Future,” one of “Masseduction’s” most forgettable songs, also failed to thrive in the live setting. The first set didn’t suffer from weak material. Loaded with proven fan favorites, the first half of Clark’s outing featured ten of her best songs.

While Clark’s expressive voice sounded no different than on her recordings, the squalling feedback and staccato bursts of noise she produced on guitar indicated that she’s a worthy instrumental heir to innovators like Tom Verlaine of Television and Robert Fripp of King Crimson and David Bowie’s bands.

A screening of “The Birthday Party” opened the show. The dark comedy directed by Clark depicts the ill-fated efforts of a housewife to conceal a dead body. In spite of the morbid conceit of the film, the evening was an affirmation of the colossal talent of a woman whose music is very much alive.

Set list

First set: Marry Me; Now, Now; The Strangers; Actor Out of Work; Cruel; Cheerleader; Strange Mercy; Digital Witness; Rattlesnake; Birth in Reverse. Second set: Hang on Me; Pills; Masseduction; Sugarboy; Los Ageless; Happy Birthday, Johnny; Savior; New York; Fear the Future; Young Lover; Dancing With a Ghost; Slow Disco; Smoking Section

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