There’s usually plenty of theatrics to St. Vincent gigs. The ‘Masseduction’ tour explored power, control and lust via PVC suits, a never-ending supply of guitars while the run of shows to celebrate the sugary; ‘70’s-inspired ‘Daddy’s Home’ were driven by a warm spontaneity as St Vincent and her extensive band worked through past trauma amidst (somewhat unfair) social media backlash.

She wanted something more direct and confrontational for seventh album ‘All Born Screaming’ though. “I’m gonna fuck ‘em up,” Annie Clark promised NME earlier this year. True to her word, tonight’s gig at London’s Royal Albert Hall is vicious, destructive, and pure electric.

St Vincent
Credit: Blair Brown

Throughout the pulverising 90-minute set, Clark wields her guitar like a weapon and attacks the microphone with a restless urgency. Big, cathartic breakdowns teeter on the edge of chaos, but Clark and her four-piece band never let things fall apart completely. It’s gorgeous to watch, but it demands participation as well. With music this charged, there’s simply no standing on the sidelines.

In the years since St. Vincent last played London, co-writes with Taylor Swift (‘Cruel Summer’) and Olivia Rodrigo (‘Obsessed’) have taken over the airwaves, but instead of chasing an arena-sized glamour, ‘All Born Screaming’ is a visceral exploration of death, flecked with hope. That’s very much the mood of tonight’s gig as well.

From the crushing purge of opener ‘Reckless’ through the unsettling horror-infused ‘Big Time Nothing’ to the snotty ‘Flea’, St Vincent indulges in bleakness. It gives the glitching dystopia of ‘Los Ageless’, the soaring anxiety of ‘Fear The Future’ and the pleading ‘Marrow’ an added sense of despair, but there’s more to this show than rage in the dying light.

“Show of hands, who has a Prince Albert,” Clark asks with a smirk, immediately after praising the beauty of the grandiose venue while there’s a playful, choreographed turn from her and her guitarists during ‘Flea’.

“This song is for all the people who have loved immensely, stared at the moon, and taken that leap,” Clark says before a gorgeous ‘Sweetest Fruit’, a stripped back ‘Candy Darling’ is lush and delicate while even the unruly attack of ‘Broken Man’ is sprinkled with tenderness. As St. Vincent describes it, it’s “deep epic beauty and chaotic violence, all at the same time”.

After she dives into the crowd once more and embraces them for the soaring romance of ‘New York’, the night ends with ‘All Born Screaming’. On record, the twisting, furious track feels lethal but performed in front of a crowd, the song encourages a shared experience through collective pain and fear.

“We’re all here for one reason, and that reason is love,” Clark explains. “As far as I can tell, there’s no other fucking reason to do anything,” she adds, offering a vital protest against a world that feels increasingly dark.

St Vincent played:

‘Fear the Future’
‘Los Ageless’
‘Big Time Nothing’
‘Pay Your Way in Pain’
‘Digital Witness’
‘Sweetest Fruit’
‘Broken Man’
‘Hell Is Near’
‘Candy Darling’
‘New York’
‘All Born Screaming’

The post St. Vincent live in London: a vicious, tender protest in the face of despair appeared first on NME.