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St Vincent

Carriageworks, June 17

St. Vincent at Carriageworks. A red rubber leotard didn't seem quite enough to keep warm in the cavernous, chilly shed.

Photo: Daniel Boud

★★★★

There are times you just look up at the stage and wonder.

Wonder whether, in this cavernous, chilly shed, a red rubber leotard is quite enough to keep warm – even with fluffy sleeves that look like flotation devices.

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Wonder why, when Annie Clark's guitar work elevates Pills to a five-minute operatic marvel, the studio version is so sugar coated.

Wonder where she's disappeared to now.

Clark, AKA St Vincent, put on a great show for those who got to see it. The odd positioning of curtains conspired with Carriageworks' giant pillars to send large sections of the crowd darting left and right to get a look. It didn't help when Clark crouched to the floor for an entire song.

The music, however, was nearly faultless. The first half, with highlights from her first four albums, showcased her vocal versatility and impressive skills on her signature series of guitars.

Now, Now from her 2007 debut Marry Me has improved over time – it sparkles better live and just when it seems to be drifting happily in one direction, Clark unleashes and drags it somewhere else entirely.

Cheerleader similarly goes off like sonic fireworks, with surprising crackles and crunches, and swings between the vulnerable and bombastic before a soaring climax in which she vapourises into a strobe-lit haze.

The weird and wonderful Rattlesnake, where the tension was greatest before giving way to her most violent solo of the evening, was the high point of the first half.

After a costume change, Clark played last year's Masseduction in full – with a large screen rotating through the pop-art visuals from the album campaign. It's a risky move, especially with the better songs early on the tracklist, but the album is even enough (and at 42 minutes, short enough) to survive it.

There's a sense, too, of Clark being free to show off her guitar chops rather than trapped in the bubble of the studio.

Los Ageless has a fuzzier edge and Fear the Future feels more immediate. Her vocals shine, too – the quiet Dancing with a Ghost stood out on the strength of her singing, and 90 minutes in Clark could be as powerful or tender as the moment demanded.

If there were dull moments, I didn't see them.

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