Festival music

St Vincent

Playhouse, Edinburgh

4 stars

Graeme Thomson

ANNE Clark, aka St Vincent, is an almost preternaturally perfect pop star. So much so, there exists a danger that her alien charisma and commitment to spectacle will obscure the heart beneath her art.

Initially, this looked like being the case for her EIF performance. For the first half of a show culled largely from last year’s Masseduction album, the display was compelling yet a little bloodless. Clark and her three excellent accompanists assembled on stage in a row. They might have been addressing a sales conference, except Clark was wearing a nude body stocking and thigh high boots, while her drummer and keyboard player were dressed in boiler suits, face tights and Boris Johnson wigs. Playing in front of stark banks of bulbs and a busy video screen, the visual aesthetic felt appropriately transgressive.

Clark strutted on a podium stage right, coolly detached. The music was clever and sharp, a slightly self-conscious blend of Prince’s electro-pop weirdness and Bowie’s art-rock, with added echoes of Kate Bush and Clark’s former collaborator David Byrne. There was plenty of light – the sinister slo-mo theatrics accompanying Huey Newton; the clever blending of sound and image on Pills – but only during several guitar-shredding solos was there any real heat.

The temperature rose at last with Digital Witness, a lovely lopsided tune prefaced with a promise that, in terrible times, “there’s always something to dance about”. A rousing rendition of her misfit anthem, Slow Disco, made explicit the humanity in these songs. By the time Clark sang the beautiful New York, the words given a local twist, and a heartbreaking Happy Birthday, Johnny, she had ventured to the stage apron, finally meeting us halfway. What began as a chilly masterclass in star power had become a lesson in the art of connection.