Annie Clark can do a lot of things very well. The Grammy-winning art-rock superstar, better known as St. Vincent, can write airtight songs with expressive lyrics, lively melodies and indelible hooks. She can make you feel every complex feeling, from nostalgic nostalgia (“Prince Johnny”) to solid yet playful resolve (“Pay Your Way in Pain”). She can make movies; she co-wrote (with Carrie Brownstein) and stars in the 2020s The hostel from nowhere.
But above all, Saint-Vincent can perform. His live show is blindingly awesome. She can sing, play guitar, and engage audiences with such ability, confidence, and charm that you almost wonder if what you’re seeing is real. And the only thing better than a night of St. Vincent performing in Las Vegas – which she’ll be doing at the Pearl on October 1st – is the idea of her showing here several weekends a year, you understand me. ? Watch now as this publication sneakily attempts to pitch Annie Clark the idea of a “St. Vegas Residence”. Cross fingers.
We only have a few minutes to chat, so let’s just talk about performance. Your first show in Vegas was at the Cosmopolitan in April 2015, outdoors by the pool. It was weird. Totally.
You politely asked the crowd not to film the show with their phones, and it worked. When did you first realize that cell phones were taking over gigs? You say to yourself, “I’m having an experience, but I’m also trying to record the experience and that changes the way I filter the experience. I certainly noticed it in me first, and I [didn’t think] it improved my experience. …I’m definitely not anti-tech, but don’t get me wrong, these things shape us. They shape us more than we shape them, you know?
Your next two Vegas performances were both at festivals (Life Is Beautiful, 2018 and 2021). I would bet most people who have seen you play have seen you at festivals. Do you like to play them? It really depends. Yes, I like festivals just for the simple fact that you can see your friends who are on tour. I was at Glastonbury, and I could play with [British punk band] Idles, and I love this band. We were finally able to meet in person and, like, hang out. I love festivals for that kind of camaraderie, the social aspects. But then, and again, this is not a review, I really don’t know how many people go to festivals to find out. I do not really know. I mean, you?
I do not know either. I hope they are. I would agree. I mean, you get all that music, a lot for your money.
I am one of those artists that you have to see live to be contextualized. That’s how I arrived, in station wagons, then minivans, then 12-passenger, then tour buses. I came to play – more or less a road dog, a grizzled road dog. [Performing] is part of my vision, my whole expression. A lot of times someone can be lukewarm to a record and then see it live and say, “Oh, I get it.” It’s better than someone who likes a record, sees it being played live, and goes, “Oh, that sucks.” (Laughs)
I think the live stuff is like, fucking shit Malcolm Gladwell. You’ve done your 10,000 hours. It’s a fun skill that you can only find and improve by doing it in front of people. I guess it’s a bit like sex, right?
I’m not sure I would want those audience notes. But that’s why it’s powerful, vulnerable and exciting, because it’s high risk and high reward. You can do it and sing flat, or just choke, but at the end of the day you’re going to do it in front of people and grow as a result, whether it’s coming closer to your own shame or a miracle of success. . .
Who inspired you, strictly as a performer? There’s Iggy Pop; I have certainly explored [that] very primal, masochistic side. But also, people like Prince or Bowie, who you feel like you know every move they make; they know exactly how it looks from every angle and they hone it to absolute perfection. … [I like] people who really give it up. People who really lose themselves in performance and aren’t afraid to be scary or confrontational.
How do you get to this place when playing? I see it as if I was an athlete and I train on the road. I train and practice. It sounds boring, but I really like physical challenges and the idea of pushing my limits. … You might be tired, you might be sick, you might be hungover, but once you’re on stage, it all fades away. But you have to assess your own [limits]. The second I’m like, “Man, I got a show tonight, but I’m so burned out” – it’s time to get off the road. But every time I go on stage, I’m fucking excited to be there.
Finally, and I ask this question out of sheer selfishness: would you ever consider playing at a residence in Vegas? Um sure! I can’t imagine crushing a Vegas residency in terms of attendance, but maybe there are a lot of fans that I don’t know.
We are here. You will see us at the Pearl. I hope, I hope. I mean, I just discovered the game. I didn’t understand Vegas, because I never really spent time there, and then I was like, “OK, I get it.” You slide into the Vegas mentality for 24-48 hours, and you just ride that ride.
ST. VINCENT With Ali Macofsky Oct. 1, 8 p.m., $41-$92. Pearl Theater, 702-944-3200.
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