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St. Vincent / Cate Le Bon

Commodore, Vancouver BC October 12

St. Vincent / Cate Le Bon
There must be something in the water in Wales, judging from Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, Super Furry Animals and now Cate Le Bon. Like both of the aforementioned bands, with which Le Bon has worked, she has a distinct layer of quirk in her presence. Wearing a beige onesie, she shot furtive glances into the darkness tinged with mild discomfort as she performed a stripped-down, steadfast solo set on a fairly dry electric guitar, while her lovely 2009 debut Me Oh My was sweetly layered with acoustic folk and psych pop elements.

Yet the link between her debut and this set was palpable in her subtle depression, slowly strumming the guitar as if, somewhere in the back of her mind, she wanted to either strangle it or let it fall to the ground and walk away. Her obtuse vocal melodies, like Nico tempered by Aimee Mann, reinforced the sombre feel, though there were best wishes expressed to the crowd in her barely audible banter.

Upping the quirk ante, Annie Clark, who is for all intents and purposes St. Vincent, is not of this world. Former member of the cult of the Polyphonic Spree and a Sufjan Stevens associate, Clark has a composition style and stage presence like no one else. She appears anxious, twitching abruptly and moving as if somewhat struggling to control her body. Yet though her music is often interpreted as an excision of inner tension, she was unable to conceal odd smiles that, from the side, contort her face into a mixture of Sigourney Weaver and the alien from Alien when it pokes out its second set of teeth. She is certainly beautiful, but unsettlingly supernatural.

Clark's spider-like fingers attack her guitar, sending her into a tortured trance when she solos. And, boy, can she shred, dropping fuzz bombs by the payload as she rocks back and forth on her four-inch heels and taps through her impressive collection of effects pedals. Importantly, she doesn't overplay, maintaining the taste level of her critically lauded records, and she clearly has the ability to bludgeon crowds to death with the power of her guitar.

Performing much of her new Top 20 record Strange Mercy, along selections from her first two full-lengths, Clark appears to have more confidence on stage, and justifiably so. The glaring spotlights were unable to beat her striking presence back into the shade with her well-dressed three-piece backing band, which stuck to a Moog, drums and MIDI controller. St. Vincent has clearly come into her own, and Clark is going to stay here amongst us mere mortals for years to come.
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