Judging by the rapturous reaction in the room, it appeared that the International Festival had saved the best of their contemporary music programme to last. There is a certain je ne sais quoi about St Vincent, aka Texan art pop tornado Annie Clark, which marks her out as one of the most interesting artists working in pop music today.
Playhouse, Edinburgh ****
Clark has carved a certain signature into the canon with her quirky visuals and her distinctive guitar shredding, which channelled an odd mix of Prince in its clipped funk style, Brian May in its melodic pomp and a distorted industrial tech blues which is Clark’s own.
Her playing is remarkable but it wasn’t the only attraction.
Clark is a pop conceptualist and her current Fear the Future Tour is a visually striking operation with Clark in bespoke bodysuit and killer heels executing her idiosyncratic micro-choreography and her three fellow musicians – drummer and keyboard player shrouded behind masks and wigs to look like showroom dummies – perched on individual podia, while arty promo clips played on the big screen above, featuring Clark in a variety of Cindy Sherman-style costumes and disguises.
Without these arresting elements, St. Vincent would be a far more standard proposition, pumping out a pulsing electronic soundtrack, much like a number of her contemporaries, punctuated by the blank deadpan make-what-you-will-of-it chant “masseduction, mass destruction”, the occasional soaring vocal (Clark’s vocal range is as impressive as her skilled playing) and bouts of dark yet playful heavy fuzz guitar – an impressive concoction which only occasionally coalesced into a satisfying song such as the sleek pop hook of Digital Witness or the lyrical mischief of New York, which was retooled with some Edinburgh references for the occasion.