Artists help us to be more rather than less human. When last Saturday night the new St Vincent stage show, featuring Annie Clark’s new album along with her new screwed up eyes and screwed down grey hairdo, rolled into Dublin for the final night of her European tour, the opening stage announcement was a plea to the audience to keep things analogue and put away our phones.
Naturally the Dublin audience was all too human – well most of us anyway – and couldn’t resist capturing at least some of the show for ourselves electronically. That’s the trouble with humanity these days I suppose – our iPhones have become entwined in the very marrow of our existence.
This is the theme of Digital Witness, one of the early songs in the set that electronically laments the fact that electronics is distracting us from the simple enjoyment of reality. Of course the blessed Ms Clark who’s rushing inexorably towards half a million Twitter followers, will not have been unaware of the delicious irony of her position.
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Annie Clark is one of the best, finest guitarists we have and can flawlessly out-Hendrix almost anyone around, only backwards and in six-inch heels. Which is why an extended version of Prince Johnny from the new album was one of the show’s exultant highlights, featuring mellifluous guitar followed by a prostrate Annie falling deliberately and gracefully backwards down the stairs, from the elevation of her saintly podium to the bare floor of the stage.
These days our saints are all too human too.
If touring and collaborating with the post-punk god of theatricality David Byrne has turned St Vincent’s hair grey, she has certainly learned how to create a stage show that has memorable and graphic impact. Not unlike the former’s big white suit in Stop Making Sense, St Vincent has a new stage persona that uses fashion and minimal choreography to ritual effect. Birth in Reverse, for example, features a replicant, robotic shuffle by Annie and guitarist/keyboardist Toko Yasuda that also points up the literary, human qualities of the lyric.
This is not the vulnerable, unadorned St Vincent of her previous album and tour Strange Mercy. This is a singer/songwriter/guitarist who has reached a level of veneration and knows her own value and musical and artistic worth and, more than likely, her own human failings too.
St Vincent is no closer to the transcendent, or to sainthood, than any of us other mere mortals. She just seems to be having more fun enjoying the pleasures and rewards of what it is to be a human who knows how to use her all too earthly talents.