Gig review: St Vincent - Stereo, Glasgow

ANNIE Clark, aka St Vincent, is a fascinating pop hybrid. On stage, hammering out riffs on a distorted guitar while dressed in leather and a sparkling gold top, her mass of curly hair becoming more unruly as the night progresses, she sometimes seems to be channeling Jimi Hendrix.

Her stage manner and singing voice, though, seem to be from somewhere else entirely; she can often come across as prim, almost schoolmistress-like.

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Her music is a similar blend of contrasts, and compelling because of it. Her most effective songs balance prettiness with lyrical darkness – usually only hinted at, but unmistakably there – and musical grit, as on Surgeon, a song which starts with soothing synth washes then gives way to a chorus of “come cut me open” and a jittery guitar riff that recalls early Talking Heads. It’s no surprise to learn that Clark is currently working with David Byrne, who shares similar quirks – a perfectionist’s attention to musical detail, plus a sort of strained façade of normality.

On record, Clark’s distorted guitar sours the sweetness of the music around it. On stage it’s the star attraction, and when she lets rip it’s mesmerising, although it takes a cover version for this to happen: She Is Beyond Good And Evil by The Pop Group, on which Clark’s usually velvet-like vocals become a PJ Harvey-like howl. It’s a startling moment, and makes me wonder what sort of music she might make if she let herself go more often.

Rating: ****