Exactly one month after garnering the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album (effectively beating Jack White, Alt-J, Arcade Fire, and Cage the Elephant), singer-songwriter St. Vincent paid Providence a special visit for an explosive show at Lupo’s on Sunday. High expectations were in place for the critically-acclaimed multi-instrumentalist and her 18-song set, which spanned over an hour and a half, definitely did not disappoint.
The night began with the show’s only opening act, Norwegian artist Jenny Hval, who was accompanied on stage by one backing musician, two females who complemented Hval’s music with performance art, and a small screen that alternated between playing various artistic video clips and acting as a filter over images of what was happening on stage. Hval and the two performance artists went under the stage’s pink lighting donning identical wigs and similar outfits. With Hval’s haunting crooning over her electronic lo-fi tracks and the performance artists using various props, including chains and even a banana on a string, I felt more like I was being immersed into the modern art wing of a museum rather than a rock show. However, the eclectic atmosphere shifted when Hval cursed the opinions of individuals who no longer believe in the necessity of feminism. Lupo’s excitedly applauded at that point – a very fitting and pleasing sight for a concert that took place on International Women’s Day. The half-hour set ended with Hval and her backing artists removing their wigs in triumph and a supportive, albeit a little confused, crowd cheering for her.
That cheering erupted even more when St. Vincent took the stage. The opened red velvet curtains revealed St. Vincent and touring instrumentalist Toko Yasuda moving across the stage in perfect unison. Effortlessly executing meticulous guitar riffs in the frantic, yet hypnotic opening track, “Bring Me Your Loves,” St. Vincent immediately set the electrifying tone for her set. Throughout the night, St. Vincent’s impressive musicianship was enhanced by impressive lighting, showcasing almost every color imaginable, as well as her unorthodox choreography, which ranged from soft hand gestures to bold full-body movements reminiscent of a marionette. That being said, St. Vincent adopted the role of puppeteer as well – right after raising her right hand up as she began “Cruel,” the audience was quick to follow.
Almost every song seemed to end with her intricate and chaotic shredding that probably made every level of musician in the audience suddenly feel self-conscious about their talent. However, for “I Prefer Your Love,” a calming and vulnerable ballad, St. Vincent took to sitting on stage’s center platform, creating an image reminiscent of the cover of her Grammy-winning album. With the lighting illuminating her graceful silhouette, Lupo’s took on a more intimate aura. She was quick to return to the show’s high energy level, immediately following the ballad with the jumpy and funky “Rattlesnake,” in which she pointed her guitar neck to some lucky audience members in the front. Her set also included the fast-paced and melodious “Actor Out of Work” as well as the thunderous “Cheerleader.” The set went full circle with the concluding track, “Birth in Reverse,” in which St. Vincent carried out infectious fuzzy guitar riffs while performing calculated choreography with Yasuda. Thankfully, St. Vincent didn’t keep fans waiting too long for the encore. She returned to the stage alone, playing a stripped-down version of “Strange Mercy” that showed off her powerful vocals and reminded the crowd that even without an elaborate stage production, St. Vincent can easily still capture all of the awe in a room.
Her band returned for the final song, “Your Lips Are Red,” a track from her debut album that features panicked and intricate instrumentals. St. Vincent’s take on “Your Lips Are Red” completely reinvented how to close a show properly. Sunday’s performance of the song featured an elongated instrumental section showcasing especially wild guitar riffs that she managed to pull off seamlessly even while she was crowd surfing. Upon her return to the stage, St. Vincent was far from done: after throwing her guitar onto the ground, she climbed onto the back of a security guard to aggressively rip off part of a dilapidated column top.
The column remnants, made of cardboard, traveled throughout the floor, with many ecstatic fans breaking off pieces to save as a souvenir. She even managed to hoist herself onto the shoulders of the security guard to gather more height, put his hat on her own head, and cause even more destruction. After resting on the stage floor for a few moments, St. Vincent returned to playing guitar and finished the track with her band. Throughout the jaw-dropping finale, the crowd was roaring. That enthusiasm persisted even after the show ended, with audience members exiting the building with reinvigorated energy. Overall, DJ Sam put it best: “St. Vincent tore apart Lupo’s,” both figuratively and literally.
Check out more photos of St. Vincent at Lupo’s from WBRU Staff Photographer Kate Talerico below!