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Review: St Vincent at Hall One, Sage Gateshead

St Vincent stunned a Hall One crowd at Sage Gateshead. Matt McKenzie was as impressed as any of them

St Vincent
St Vincent

There’s a moment in this show when the music stops and St Vincent slides slowly down the three high steps of her grand stage podium, a single strobe flickering. She’s a black and white Hollywood star plunging a final, dramatic descent.

I’ve never seen the like and it’s a triumph, a moment of impossible grace and tragedy.

It’s all the more effective coming after two swooping songs sung from the top of her stairs: Cheerleader starts like Across The Universe and explodes into something resembling Julian Cope’s Sunspots, resolute and defiant. Then Prince Johnny, a strange Bowie-like tale of longing and snorting a piece of the Berlin Wall with this “son of someone”.

The evening had started with a disembodied robot voice asking us wryly (I think robots can be wry) to refrain from “digitally capturing” the gig (her latest album comments much on the online revolution’s effect on our lives). There follows much art and artistry, irresistible guitar playing, preposterously-choreographed dancing that borders on self-parody and many between-song observational monologues that, again, strangely remind me of Julian Cope, strangely. Julian crossed with Lady Gaga actually, with her talk of “freaks”, this “space-time continuum” we share (“miraculous in its own right”, she says), and how “no matter what happens, we don’t ever, ever give up hope”. She also thinks our favourite word is “orgiastic” and who are we to argue?

Rattlesnake sings of holes in the sand “as if Seurat painted the Rio Grande” and quickly moves from pointillism to pointlessness as Digital Witness satirises social media conformism.

Cruel showcases the radiant depth of her voice, as does I Prefer Your Love which sees her louche and lounging on her second step, casting a shadow like an angular Greek goddess. She lays down at one point, still singing on her own altar.

Birth in Reverse, a breathless Bring Me Your Loves and Huey Newton are all examples why the latest album is one of the year’s finest. Strange Mercy, from her other career high point, provides a delicate and affecting solo spot.

Regret contains a swollen, pregnant pause – a stunning silence for what must have been ten seconds (an eternity in this context), time felt suspended. More drama.

It’s as brave as her stair slide and another memorably formidable display of confidence. Few performers around are as captivating and fewer can put on shows like this.

Matt McKenzie - 4 stars


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