St Vincent – review

Manchester Cathedral
A killer new album and this terrific show full of blood, funk and moonwalking confirm the sense that St Vincent is moving from leftfield oddity to out-and-out star

The lights go up and Texas-born New Yorker Annie Clark – aka St Vincent – is already on stage. In a curious white ensemble, her torso splattered with red, she looks as if she's just undergone an emergency operation. Strobes flash and suddenly she is holding a guitar, jerking around the stage like a puppet on unseen strings. As the shimmering electro-pop of Rattlesnake bubbles up around her, her mass of recently dyed-grey hair suddenly stands on end, as if powered by electricity – or perhaps something more otherworldly. "I feel the spirit in the room," the Saint tells the packed cathedral.

Perhaps best known before now for Love This Giant, her 2011 collaboration with David Byrne, Clark's new, rave-reviewed fourth album marks her ascent from former Sufjan Stevens backing musician and leftfield oddity to bona fide star. In pop's middle age, her music has that rare shock of something new. Familiar 1980s electro grooves and wallops of industrial noise aside, it sounds like some sort of skewed, electronic space-pop, topped off with sensational, soaring vocals that recall the Cocteau Twins and Bjork. When she adds her astonishing, jagged funk guitar-playing into the mix, she sounds like a 21st-century Jimi Hendrix.

The show is militarily but gloriously choreographed, even if the venue's many pillars mean that seeing and hearing her clearly at the same time would require divine intervention. Clark pirouettes about like a robot marionette, she and guitarist/synth player Toko Yasuda gliding in opposite directions on high heels as if on invisible tracks, a dazzling variation on Michael Jackson's Moonwalk. A show full of theatre and sex gains an extra frisson from the ecclesiastical surroundings. Clark sings I Prefer Your Love flat on her back on a flight of stairs while caressing her neck and shoulders; although presumably she didn't run Birth in Reverse's line, "Take out the garbage, masturbate", past the owner of the house.

The marathon, two-hour set sees her pack in 20 songs, rollercoasting from the stately and sublime Prince Johnny to Krokodil's hurtling, robotic punk. By the time she collapses in a heap in eerie slow motion, she has surely sealed her status as one of pop's most exciting new stars.

• Did you catch this gig – or any other recently? Tell us about it using #Iwasthere


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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