Saint-Vincent brings “Papa” home to Berkeley
BERKELEY – St. Vincent (artist Annie Clark) isn’t afraid to radically change the way she presents herself to the world. And his impressive performance at the Hearst Greek Theater on Thursday night only reinforced that fact, along with his well-deserved status as a top-notch performance artist and unique and influential musical talent.
Just a few years ago, St. Vincent was touring his critically acclaimed album Masseduction dressing in futuristic skin-tight leather and performing on her own with just backing tracks and surreal video footage. On this tour, she reinvented herself with vintage-inspired clothing and had a talented group with backing vocals and no video reinforcement at all. Saint-Vincent was perhaps unrecognizable to those who saw it just four years ago.
His latest album, Daddy’s house, centers on a vision of 1970s New York in which she grapples with her father’s past incarceration and her current anxieties about unfulfilled expectations and toxic relationships as she navigates into adulthood. It’s a complex storytelling done entirely in character, which allows him to explore these sensitive topics with a bit of hindsight.
But Saint-Vincent also seems to recognize that this deep dive into the role of a character can create a dissonance that makes it difficult to know the real Annie Clark.
The show opened up in a bad direction: the band took its place and St. Vincent joined the chorus-singers in a line to loud applause, but was it her? It was quickly revealed that the woman fans were cheering for is an impostor, and the real Saint Vincent was revealed on a rotating platform behind the group. We thought we knew her, but it was superficial. To take it a step further, this moment of confusion was paired with the opening song “Digital Witness,” from her self-titled 2015 album that grapples with the voyeurism of social media and the validation we seek from our “audiences”. “. daddy’s house perhaps her most personal and revealing album to date, but how much could we truly understand where she has been and what did she hope to accomplish by sharing these intimate details of her life?
There was what seemed like a nod to another famous artist who once played a character to create a space for exploring complex subjects. At some point between songs, a woman dressed as a waitress handed a ringing phone to Saint-Vincent. Much like Bono as the devil showman Mr. MacPhisto, who during U2’s Zoo TV tour used to call world leaders like President George HW Bush on the phone from the stage every night, St. Vincent has interrupted the show to have a brief phone conversation. However, she pretended to call and chat with not a world leader but a girlfriend who she promised to share “big gossip” with later. The interlude might have seemed out of place without the frequent questioning of female stereotypes and the expectations of a bygone era that populate daddy’s house. It was another reminder of the retro character that Saint-Vincent embodied during this musical period.
Sometimes, however, St. Vincent could let her guard down and become disarmingly transparent and self-deprecating, like when she was telling a story about her recent recognition in a restaurant. She mistakenly thought that the waitress was telling her that her money was not welcome there (apparently a common benefit for the famous one), but it turned out that she had just gone to the wrong place to pay. . In those moments when her real self broke through, she appreciated herself even more.
His group was just as exhilarating as one would expect given his pedigree. Affectionately nicknamed the “Down and Out Downtown Band”, it was led by the incomparable Justin Meldal-Johnsen on bass and featured Jason Falkner on guitar, Rachel Eckroth on keyboards and Mark Guiliana on drums. Meldal-Johnsen’s role as musical director fits naturally with the retro-funk grooves of daddy’s house Songs, given his long history of producing and performing with Beck, and his impeccable musicality and tight pocket were evident on songs like “Pay Your Way In Pain” and “… At The Holiday Party”.
Independent rockers Spoon opened the show. Despite having only two original members, singer-guitarist Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno, the group effortlessly made their way through hits like “Do You” and “The Underdog”. A highlight came halfway through the set when Daniel presented a song “from our favorite Beatle”, which turned out to be John Lennon’s introspective and timely “Isolation”. Guitarist-keyboardist Alex Fischel performed the first half of the melancholy song on the piano with an impressive and loose interpretation before being joined by the rest of the group.
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