Yes I sacrificed going to see Spiritualized at Massey Hall in order to be there but St. Vincent took to the stage at Yonge-Dundas Square to put on one of the best shows I have witnessed since arriving in Toronto. A show that was as expert musically as it was visually stimulating.
Following on from the nineteen-minute experimental rock songs of Swans, Annie Clark and her band emerged after a synthesized voice – the same Macintosh SimpleText effect used on OK Computer’s “Fitter, Happier” – appealed to the audience to refrain from digitally recording their experience. Signed St. Vincent. I’m unsure as to how well this was received by the sponsors, an electronics company advertising their new smartphone with giant models of the device displaying real-time footage of the show and encouraging the audience to share their experience through social media using their hashtag. Mixed messages.
St. Vincent’s memo fell partially on deaf ears and didn’t stop people from forcing me to watch part of the gig through their phones, though you can’t blame them. Regardless, St. Vincent performed a set to cap off an excellent evening of music in the heart of downtown Toronto.
Annie Clark’s guitar playing is exceptional. The innovative way she approaches the instrument, always looking to find unique sounds and techniques and the way she plays the shit out of it on stage. Her attention-grabbing licks and hooks are always performed flawlessly, from the commanding riffs of “Birth in Reverse” to the more subtly technical chorus of “Surgeon”. Her stunning vocals only multiply the unshakable confidence she exudes.
As well as musically, the show was visually spectacular. David Byrne-inspired gestures pepper most of the songs – she did, however, stop short of jogging around the stage for several laps – be it small hand and arm movements or appearing to die a slow death on a set of steps during one song. Add to this strobe lighting and occasional plumes of smoke while dusk slowly blanketed the city and you are reminded of all the reasons why NXNE is a superb festival.