St. Vincent takes tiny steps onstage, each stride measuring just a few inches, almost like a ballerina moving along on her tiptoes.
Yet, make no mistake, this singer-songwriter-guitarist is poised to make a giant leap forward in her career.
St. Vincent, whose real name is Annie Clark, has long nurtured a healthy cultlike following in the indie-music world. With the recent release of her self-titled fourth solo album, however, she's now on the brink of becoming a full-fledged star.
The 31-year-old Oklahoma native, who was raised in Texas, certainly acted the part during her enjoyable show on Saturday at the Fox Theater in Oakland. She commanded the attention of the packed crowd throughout her roughly 100-minute performance, exuding equal amounts star power and artistic merit.
Opening the show with the twisting, hissing "Rattlesnake," which also kicks off the new album, St. Vincent proceeded to take fans on a ride that was as much performance art as it was concert. Her body jerked about in wild, chaotic fashion, as if she had no say in the matter. Strobe lights were perfectly timed to amplify her abrupt motions, making St. Vincent seem like a character in an old flip book or antiquated cartoon reel.
It was a variation on the "robot" dance, done in a way that somehow connected cold and calculated with alluring and unpredictable. That shouldn't surprise anyone who knows St. Vincent, an artist who thrives on contradictions.
And she's grown so much as a performer in the last few years, which makes perfect sense since she spent a considerable amount of time hanging out with David Byrne, one of the greatest performance artists in rock history. The duo put out "Love this Giant" in 2012, and toured extensively in support of the album. It seems safe to say that St. Vincent took very good notes while with Byrne.
She seemed to grow more powerful and confident as the night progressed, perhaps bolstered by the crowd's willingness to go in whatever direction St. Vincent saw fit. Backed by a three-piece band, St. Vincent crooned Bjork-like ballads -- none better than the new album's striking "I Prefer Your Love" -- and she rocked like Led Zeppelin.
It's the latter that truly separates St. Vincent from her contemporaries. She's the rare guitar hero in a genre that, generally, avoids fret-board fireworks. Thankfully, St. Vincent doesn't tow that line.
She handles an amazing array of styles on the guitar, going from the feedback-drenched fury of Neil Young to the screeching cheetah runs of Tom Morello to the brute force of Thurston Moore. And she does it all so well. Perhaps guitar heroics are just in her blood -- she is, after all, the niece of acclaimed guitarist Tuck Andress (of Tuck and Patti fame).
She excelled in just about every aspect of her game on Saturday -- the sole exception being, arguably, her forced and nonsensical between-song banter.
Still, St. Vincent has much going for her right now, and seems destined to become a much bigger star.
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