St. Vincent: Daddy’s Home World Tour w/ Ali Macofsky: ICON Music Center; Cincinnati, OH – Tuesday, September 7, 2021
With the return of live music events, one of the concerts on my must-see list was St. Vincent, following the release of Daddy’s Home earlier this year, and year’s of hearing stellar reports about her artful live performances. Plus, after touring in 2018 solo in support of her award-winning Masseducation backed only by tracks, the idea of seeing her with a full band felt very promising. And, St. Vincent & co. did not disappoint, with the added benefit of making my first trip into the new Icon Music Center venue in downtown Cincinnati.
The stage design screamed the 70’s, with the drums and bass on risers to the right, and keyboards and second guitarist set up to the left, with a fake city building façade in the rear, and a rounded riser with three mic stands for the background singers. The band entered as a recording of the 60’s doo-wop single “Daddy’s Home” by Shep & The Limelites was finishing, all dressed appropriately in bell-bottomed pants, polyester outfits in bright colors, ever so groovy, baby. The band launched into an extended instrumental take on “Digital Witness,” reimagining the song from St. Vincent’s self-titled 2014 album with more of a 70’s groove. The artist herself entered wearing a white, hot pants suit with matching boots, and the band gave a similar treatment to “Rattlesnake,” from that same album, softening the crisp techno edges on the original into more of a sly, funky beat. St. Vincent, also known as Annie Clark, occasionally toying with a theremin just off to her left, sang lead with support from her trio of singers, before strapping on her guitar for a ripping solo, the first of many.
“Down” was next, the first songs from her latest album, bringing her singers down to the front of the stage, all the women dancing to the slinky rhythm, while the circular stage behind them turned 180 degrees revealing a mirrored wall behind them. Drummer Mark Guiliana kicked off the big beat for “Actor Out of Work,” which was fueled by a bit of punk aggression. Bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen offered up the big bass riff for “Birth in Reverse,” which led to St. Vincent trading big guitar riffs with her support guitarist, Jason Falkner, both tearing a whole in the roof, figuratively speaking. St. Vincent’s guitar sound is unique, eschewing more traditional Fender or Gibson guitar tones, she tends toward an electronic, almost metallic sound, which tends to remind me of the effected guitar approach of players like Adrian Belew. She has the chops to tear up the fretboard, and shred with the best of them, all while producing a sound quite unlike most other players.
Much like David Byrne, who St. Vincent collaborated with on their 2012 album, “Love This Giant,” she tends to plan the artistic aspects of her show so that she has control over the production aspects of her presentation. She leaves little to chance. Thus telling a story about being recognized by a fan in a restaurant where she was picking up her meal, is part of the set up for the next song. She mentioned that the woman practically swooned when they realized who they were serving, assuring the artist that she was a big, big fan. As St. Vincent got ready to pay, the woman said, “oh, you don’t pay here,” giving the impression that her food would be free. So not wanting to take advantage, St. Vincent said she was fumbling in her purse for money or a card, saying that she should definitely pay for her food when the server stopped her to explain, “oh, no. You don’t pay over here, you pay over at the register.” All of which to introduce the title track of her new album, “Daddy’s Home,” where she sings about being recognized in the visitors room while waiting to see her father in prison where he was serving a sentence for financial mis-dealings. The song’s darker emotions played out in St. Vincent’s starker delivery, including screams and growls, and a popping guitar solo. “Down and Out Downtown,” followed, with a Fender Rhodes piano and slower, jazzier delivery.
For “New York,” a song about losing a hero and a friend in the Big Apple, St. Vincent delivered the verses starting up on the riser by her singers, with only piano by Rachel Eckroth and steady kick drum, with the full band joining in on the choruses offering plenty of flourishes and embellishments. Before the next number, Ariana, who she described as her guitar tech and sometimes bartender, came around with a tray of drinks for the entire band, providing the needed vibe for “…At the Holiday Party,” which St. Vincent delivered the vocals soulfully, then played a slide guitar using her large metallic old school looking microphone as a slide.
St. Vincent led the band next into “Los Ageless,” playing the big bold rocker with all the aplomb of a rock anthem designed for large arenas, while Ariana pealed off the mirror sheeting to reveal of wall with a dozen or so white light bars, the singers pulling some the light poles off the wall to swing around as they sang. “Sugarboy” followed, another big beat rocker, this time with extended guitar heroics between St. Vincent and Faulkner. For “Marrow,” the stage filled with smoke as the lighting took on a darker hue for the stripped back punk, haunting feel of the song that opened up with a crazy hard rock riff from St. Vincent’s guitar. She handed off her guitar to deliver “Fast Slow Disco,” which was delivered with all the gusto of the big dance number it’s screaming to be.
Eckroth feints a piano intro for “Pay Your Way in Pain,” before sliding into the throbbing synth riff that defines the song’s melody, with a break out moment where she sings “I wanna be loved!” That sets up the 60’s pop palate cleanser that is the role reversal love story, “My Baby Wants a Baby,” then “Cheerleader” opens quietly at first, before the big, punchy rhythm kicks in and the entire stage throbs with red lights as St. Vincent delivers a bluesy guitar solo. They close the 75-minute set with the energetic punk rock delivery of “Fear The Future,” St. Vincent sliding around on the soles of her white knee high boots while she plays the closing guitar parts while her band blazes behind her.
The encores began with the fun guitar riffs of “Year of the Tiger,” which bled into a dramatic reading of “Your Lips Are Red.” St. Vincent was lying on the floor of her spinning stage surrounded by her singers and a half circle of flowers as “Live In the Dream” began, her singers seemingly lifting her back to life, then the singers moving in slow motion around the stage as St. Vincent puts on a guitar as if sleep walking before coming alive to deliver the smoking guitar solo, that again had me thinking of Adrian Belew’s fun, noisy electronic sounds. The band capped it off with the dripping 70’s sound of “The Melting of the Sun,” putting a final lid on a very strong, musically compelling performance by St. Vincent and her fine band. Roy Orbison’s “It’s Over” played as the lights began to come up, proving that it’s not a bad thing to think through all the artistic aspects of a performance.
Comedienne Ali Macofsky opened with a half hour set of material centering around her issues dealing with a troubled childhood, feminism, dating, and orgasms or the lack there of, in a consistently “too much information” manner, managing to make most of seem pretty damn funny. Laughter, and perhaps mild embarrassment filled the room.