St. Vincent at the Ogden Theatre, 3-29-14 (photos, review)By Bailey Constas | March 31st, 2014 | 3 comments
You’ll have to make an extra effort to find crowd-shot photos of St. Vincent‘s glowing white hair, gore-covered gown and her Prince-like power stance atop a pink pedestal. The usual layer of luminous rectangles above the audience was mostly-absent at the Ogden Theatre on Saturday night. The crowd had been warned, and they took heed. A dramatic and elevating artist, St. Vincent’s Annie Clark commands an equally particular fan-base. To survive her set without pulling out a phone, checking Facebook, sending a tweet, taking a picture was an offense that threatened public humiliation. Visually stunning, weird and thought-provoking, it was tempting to do so, but to be glued to a backlit-screen instead of Clark’s piercing eyes, threatened some sort of hipster betrayal.
And so it was, as Clark, backed a drummer and two other multi-instrumentalists, started off her sold out Ogden set with “Rattlesnake” and moved on to the pointed “Digital Witness.” Clark took on the persona of a doll-like robot with feverish and delicate twitches — an elegant and challenging millennial monster. Her dancing varied from the occasional rigid arm twitches turned into balletic port-de-bras to crazed ground rolling. The explosive opening tracks, both of her most recent self-titled release, set the tone for the first third of the set. Alternately singing, dancing and taking the front center of the stage for a explorative solo, Clark channeled Prince and David Bowie in both musical skill and visual presentation. But like any good artist, St. Vincent adds to these influences, manipulates them and makes them her own, rather than reproduce them in some loving homage.
Between songs she would address the crowd, “ladies and gentlemen and others…I believe we have a few things in common…” she would begin by saying. She then would recite a sort of poem about childhood. At one point she gave one of the poems a Colorado twist, “you would make a shrine made of aluminum foil, Pabst cans and legal marijuana.” Rather than blank stares or laughter, the audience responded with a slight pause — frantically trying to make sense of the comment — and then cheers. And this was the attitude of Denver on Saturday. Occasionally dancing and giving polite subdued cheers throughout the night, the crowd seemed unwilling to let loose. They would calmly take in St. Vincent’s set. At times it was so silent in the audience you could hear the bustle of Colfax outside of the Ogden.
The middle third of St. Vincent’s set took a slight lull before it moved into “Surgeon” and “Cheerleader from 2011’s “Strange Mercy” and “Prince Johnny” off the self-titled release. Moving to the top of her pedestal on stage, Clark sang “I Don’t Want to be Your Cheerleader.” The sentiment felt more like an empowered speech at an activist rally than a song. During “Prince Johnny” Clark lounged on the pedestal, ending the song by rolling down its pearly steps.
After a jarring encore of “Strange Mercy” and “Your Lips Are Red,” the lights came up, returning the dazed crowd to the Ogden Theatre in Denver. Twisted with contemplation, the faces shuffled out and one said, “I didn’t get it until like halfway through.”
Bailey Constas is a Fort Collins-based writer and new contributor to Reverb. Follow her on Twitter @BaileyLiza.
Glenn Ross is a Denver-based photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. See more of his work here.