Last time St Vincent toured it was with a crack backing band up to the challenge of taking her complex, layered music and turning it into a seamless, choreographed live show. For the Fear The Future tour, however, Annie Clark would be performing alone with the heavy lifting being done by pre-recorded backing tracks. How would that work? Is this basically one step away from miming? What does that leave for her as a performer?
A lot, as it turns out.
Following a support slot taken with a screening of her darkly hilarious directorial debut, the horror short The Birthday Party, the setlist splits more or less into two: the first half draws from her previous albums, in chronological order as they were written, and the second half is all drawn from last year’s Masseduction.
Thus the night begins with Clark singing "Marry Me" over a new string arrangement and proceeds through new versions of old favourites – cue explosive versions of "Actor Out Of Work", "Cheerleader", "Birth In Reverse" and more, with Clark swapping between differently coloured versions of her signature Ernie Ball guitar, from which she tore out sounds ranging from sweet jazzy chordage to strangulated animal howls.
During this part of the set she moved from stage left to stage right as the curtains gradually parted with her, eventually starting out the most recent material before a massive scream-esque backdrop. And then, from a small platform in the middle of the stage with massive projections of (mainly) herself behind her she ploughed through most of Masseduction – shredding through riffs which were keys on the record, or occasionally doubling her vocal lines.
And she wasn’t afraid to get goofy either, beginning "New York" with knowing references to Sydney, King Street and Enmore’s beloved-slash-notorious Sly Fox (which was met with roars of approval from the audience). Pandering? Sure, but everyone was in on the joke. And it was moments like this which turned what was a meticulously staged gig from impressive-but-bloodless to something truly transcendent.
Heaven knows where she goes from here, but it’s going to be somewhere worth following.