Concert Review: St. Vincent's Austin City Limits TV taping

Before Monday night (May 14,) nearly a decade had passed since St. Vincent’s last performance on Austin City Limits – the artist born Annie Clark first appeared on the longest-running music television show in history (which launched in 1974 with Willie Nelson’s pilot episode) for a split-taping with Andrew Bird in 2009 supporting sophomore album Actor.
“You’ve never seen anything like this in front of our cameras,” said executive producer Terry Lickona during his brief intro speech.
He was right regarding the impressive production: partially blocking the show’s iconic Austin city skyline backdrop was a wall of four sequenced light panels – one for her and each of her three, linearly arranged band members, who’ve joined Clark for this leg of her 'Fear the Future' Tour behind fifth album Masseduction. The tour kicked off late last year with a series of highly choreographed and programmed solo shows from the Dallas-raised chanteuse-shredder.
Lickona’s comment was likewise correct in terms of the extra-special set that unfolded over at least 90 minutes in front of the 2,700-capacity studio audience. The main set mirrored her Coachella Weekend 2 scenario: Clark’s outfit – a scintillating and scant red bodysuit and matching thigh-high boots – was identical to the one used in Indio, and so was the 14-song run comprised mostly of new cuts, with an interlude of five older tunes showcasing her largely underrated, riveting riff chops (“Huey Newton,” “Marrow,” “Cruel,” “Cheerleader,” “Digitial Witness” and “Rattlesnake”). But when the encore commenced, the show took a splendidly special turn.
After a double-dose of “Hang on Me,” replayed for the taping’s sake after Clark missed a guitar cue near the beginning, she addressed the audience in a familial tone – a sort of standard whenever she plays in her home state. “I’ve got friends, family … my mother here,” she revealed. “In the spirit of hometown-ness, I’m going to play some songs I used to play in coffee shops, bad bars and, on some embarrassing occasions, in pizza parlors … taking it back old-school.”
With that, Clark strummed through consecutive, extra-rare solo renditions of “Severed Crossed Fingers” and “Prince Johnny,” both off her 2014 self-titled album, but presumably with stripped-down origins predating her 2007 full-length debut Marry Me.
It was a pin-drop-quiet moment that would prompt a freak-out for any diehard St. Vincent fan, one that might never occur again in a regular concert setting. Still, Clark had one remaining rabbit in her hat: a second helping of main-set closer “Slow Disco,” which apparently didn’t go precisely as planned the first time through due to a “technical difficulty.” Nobody looked disappointed; that tune was one of the new-album tracks that benefitted from this full-band format by way of an all-new arrangement – in place of its usual stark, haunting, vocal-focused sonics, the song surged forward with a New Order/Joy Division-esque pulse, spurring one last, galvanic dance-off to cap off the one-of-a-kind studio concert.
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Last updated: 18 Jan 2019, 23:00 Etc/UTC