What do you get when you cross Kate Bush and Regina Spektor, and then proceed to put her into a Kill Bill catsuit? Jocie Adams, of Arc Iris, to cut a long guessing-game short. The band, considering it is their first gig in Liverpool, look more than comfortable as they take to the stage. Unfazed, they unveil songs such as ‘Whiskey Man’ and ‘Canadian Cowboy’ to the crowd. Having previously been compared to artists such as Sufjan Stevens and Joanna Newsom, Arc Iris’ brand of freak-folk refreshes the Academy, which becomes strangely reminiscent of a forest, with leaves draped around the band’s equipment, and the band members themselves appearing as mystical creatures, with their gentle vocal harmonies and elegant clarinet playing. Taking one look around the audience, it is clear that Arc Iris were not previously featured in most peoples’ music libraries here, but, after this performance, that is very likely to change.
Just an hour later, Annie Clark (a.k.a. St. Vincent), descends upon Liverpool, beginning with a Fitter Happier-esque automated message, reminding us that we would “maximise our enjoyment this evening if we refrained from using any form of technological device”. The vast majority of the audience comply and so it begins, on a high, with ‘Rattlesnake’.
Tonight, Clark is sporting a vaguely gory dress, featuring eyes and teeth printed on it, and electric blue eye shadow; this only accentuates her already-apparent quirky nature.
Fittingly, soon after the automated message, we hear ‘Digital Witness’, a particular highlight of the evening, due to its strong message and negative portrayal of the social media age. Clark looks around the crowd and seems contented at the lack of electric light being omitted from the crowd.
Clark’s signature philosophical musings during her gigs probe a loud-mouthed Scouser to ask, “What’s in that bottle?” She simply laughs somewhat maniacally and continues with her set.
In songs such as ‘Surgeon’, Clark yields guitar tones that, in turn, wouldn’t sound out of place on an Eagulls or Parquet Courts record. However, others may argue the true influence on Clark’s guitar playing on her self-titled album is that of former Talking Heads member, and St. Vincent collaborator, David Byrne, who, sadly, does not join her on stage this evening.
‘I Prefer Your Love’ reveals a different side to Clark this evening, notably as she sings the whole song standing still on a podium. Upon finishing, she gives a coy smile, conveying that she is unaware of her talents; “All the good in me is because of you,” she croons. It is Annie Clark who delivers this song, not her self-sufficient and performance creation, St. Vincent.
As the set continues, it is clear that the seemingly random paralytic dancing is, in fact, choreographed to perfection. It is towards the latter half of the set that one realises this is a concept performance, one in which Clark is about to meet her demise. ‘Prince Johnny’ is particularly captivating, mostly as the song is extended by an extra minute and a half, as Clark tumbles from her podium and lays, unmoving, on the stage.
Needless to say, an encore is demanded by the raucous audience, and Clark promptly returns to the stage, with ‘Chloe in the Afternoon’ and ‘Your Lips Are Red’ still to deliver to us. The disparate elements of Clark’s set mould together, and as the set draws to a close, the concept of a creature living, dying and going to heaven is complete. However, not before Clark somewhat unexpectedly climbs onto the shoulders of a security guard and precariously places the guitar on the raised hands of the front crowd, as though allowing the guitar to ‘crowd surf’, instead of her, before rising as if nothing had happened. Coyly thanking Liverpool for having her, she simply walks off the stage, leaving all else to the imagination.
Whatever occurred this evening, it was mindblowing and there are no doubts that Annie Clark (a.k.a. St. Vincent) will have any trouble being invited back to Liverpool, never mind the UK, in the near future.
Review by: Mary Keatings