St. Vincent * 11/1/11 * 9:30 Club, Washington DC

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On November 1 at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., I saw St. Vincent perform for the third time. She and her band are touring through the U.S. and Europe to promote the artist’s new album, Strange Mercy. Perhaps one of the most intriguing parts of the experience is hearing St. Vincent’s sound alternate between ethereal siren calls and raw, robotic guitar solos. Clark is like a real-life version of Hester Prynne’s daughter, Pearl, from The Scarlett Letter: an impish, childlike muse who explodes with anger before transforming back into her innocent self. Dressed in a glittery gold top, black leather shorts and tights, Clark’s short, dark curls slowly unfurled as the show went on.

The set was heavy on songs from Strange Mercy, such as “Year of the Tiger,” “Cruel,” and the album’s namesake. Between songs, Clark conversationally told stories of how the songs originated, connecting “Year of the Tiger” to the Chinese calendar and running through graveyards at midnight on Halloween. St. Vincent also played a smattering of songs from her previous album, Actor, ending the show with the see-sawing electronic rock number “Marrow.”

The encore started off with the flirty number “The Party” and climaxed to an explosive rendition of “Your Lips Are Red,” in which Clark waded into the crowd while continuing to shred her guitar. At the end, she offered her guitar up to the will of the crazed front row and returned to the stage, finishing again softly with the lyric, “Your lips are so fair, it’s not fair.”

The see-saw of emotion in her songs and live performance is what will keep me coming back to St. Vincent’s concerts again and again.

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